Rating: Three stars
It was two minutes before Mike Hanus would be shooting a scene with Pamela Anderson at Parkside Victoria Resort and Spa for Jackhammer, his loopy comedy that makes it world première tonight at the Victoria Film Festival.
So why was he doing push-ups off-camera?
“If I do a few sets to failure I’ll look more muscular,” explained the Victoria bodybuilder, realtor and filmmaker, laughing when told he was starting to sound like the ridiculously narcissistic male stripper he plays.
“I was doing push-ups between takes for two days,” said Hanus, recalling similar workouts he did between filming fight sequences with Steve Austin for the action flick Damage. And he says he’s not alone in working out to look buff on camera.
“Vin Diesel, the Rock — all these physique-type actors have their elastic bands and weights on set. It can transform you drastically. It brings out the veins and vascularity and gives the illusion you’re more muscular, but it doesn’t last long.”
While his movie set exercise routines can be vigorous, they’re nothing compared to the mega-workout that “put a few wrinkles around my eyes” he enduring for his homegrown passion project filmed mostly in Victoria over three years.
“I feel we’ve come full-circle and the whole community can celebrate,” said Hanus, who was elated when his 92-minute comedy was selected as the Canadian Opening Gala film. “I knew R-rated comedies aren’t usually considered festival fare but I had my fingers crossed. I understood festivals were mainly geared to dramas and films about overcoming obstacles.”
Hanus had plenty of obstacles to overcome to complete his insanely funny, self-financed comedy about the exploits of his character — a delusional musclebound peeler and wannabe rapper. As if his bushy porn star-type moustache weren’t cringeworthy enough, “The Hammer,” as he’s nicknamed, wears a gold lame thong and hot-pink and red leather outfits.
While Jackhammer won’t be mistaken for an art film and takes awhile to pick up steam, Hanus’s directorial feature debut bulges with the trappings of the unabashedly commercial product he was going for. Between the big, bold floating credits and aerial photography, Mike Glover’s synth-pop score, two amusing dreamlike sequences (one replicating a head trip will have potheads howling) and the hilarious antics of Hanus and his spirited supporting cast, it’s an exercise in unbridled lunacy.
In short, it delivers the goods for moviegoers looking just for laughs, familiar faces and eye candy.
Besides Anderson, cameo performers include Robb Wells (Trailer Park Boys) as a “protein-pusher” with a yellow spandex fetish; Nicole Sullivan (MadTV) as Crazy Lucy (enough said); Jamie Kennedy (Scream) as a slimy casting director; Julian Paul (The A-Team) as a Russian mobster, Peter Shinkoda and YouTube sensation Peter Cho.
Hanus said he couldn’t have completed what is regarded as the most ambitious homegrown film made here without “amazing” support from local sponsors and his dynamic production team.
It includes Sylvana Azurdia, his wife, real estate partner and co-star. Azurdia also executive produced with Dani Zaviceanu, visual effects whiz Chris Orchard and Jason Burkart, who plays a burly superstar stripper. It’s produced by McKinley Hlady; and co-writers Duncan MacLellan and Guy Christie, who plays Jackhammer’s shy brother reluctantly recruited as a male stripper.
Locations showcased in the film that received post-production support from Telefilm Canada and was lensed by Dan Carruthers and Jerry Knott include the Blue Bridge, the Atrium, Svelte Cocktail Lounge and the Chop Shop hair salon.
When you consider what Hanus has pulled off, he might as well be nicknamed Magic Mike, after Channing Tatum’s character in last year’s megahit set in the high-stakes world Jackhammer lampoons.
Hanus wore so many hats it’s a wonder he could even focus on his jumpy character.
“I loved Robert Downey, Jr.’s character in Tropic Thunder, so I modelled Jackhammer after him,” he said. “I’d tape myself and watch the tapes to get the character traits down. As soon as I put that ’stache on, I was ready to roll. I was in the zone.”
Hanus learned a key ingredient to attract potential distributors was having name actors.
He credits Hlady, well-connected in Hollywood, with encouraging him to try and get Anderson.
“It wasn’t something I considered,” Hanus admits. “A lot of Hollywood doors would haved stayed shut otherwise. It’s a carrot we can dangle.”
Hlady met Hanus when he dropped by friend Anthony Morris’s home in Langford, where a party scene was being filmed.
“I saw his comedy, professionalism and eye for detail,” recalled Hlady, the Victoria film producer whose profile has been rising since he produced Avarice, his thriller starring Kevin Sorbo that has been picked up by Lionsgate.
“We need to amp this thing up,” Hlady recalls saying before he reached out to Anderson through Elton Pereira, the Victoria software developer and philanthropist working with the the Ladysmith-born bombshell on the Facebook game BamPoker.
Hlady also suggested they reshoot the party sequence at Morningside Estate B&B where, coincidentally, he had done landscaping work with Van-Isle Irrigation, a company he co-owned.
“It’s funny. I went from laying down brick at Morningside to producing a movie there.”
Friday’s screening was sold out. For tickets to the post-premiere party at Sugar Nightclub visit jackhammerparty.eventbrite.ca.
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