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Ex Drummer
cast: Dries Van Hegen, Norman Baert, Gunter Lamoot, and Sam Louwyck

director: Koen Mortier

90 minutes (18) 2007
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Tartan DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Jim Steel
Holy shit! Let's see... assault, male-on-female rape, male-on-male rape, masturbation, racism, sexism, homophobia, murder, child abuse, drug abuse, and child abusing drugs... Review copies are notorious for coming along with little in the way of relevant details, but I'm going to take a wild stab in the dark here and guess that this is a certificate 18. It's one of the most deliberately offensive films that I've seen in a long time. It's also very, very funny. Based on the 1994 book of the same name by Belgian writer Herman Brusselmans (the Flemish Irvine Welsh), it is the story of a hapless punk rock band made up of the worst bunch of losers ever to pick up instruments.

Three musicians in Ostend are looking for a drummer for their band, and they decide to ask Dries (played by Dries Van Hegen) if he is interested. Dries is a famous writer, but they had heard that he used to be a drummer. However, he has to have a handicap as all three of them are handicapped and they have decided that's going to be their gimmick. Keon, a violent, misogynistic skinhead (Norman Baert) has a lisp and often froths at the mouth. He's the singer. Jan (Gunter Lamoot) is gay and keeps bringing his boyfriends into the band in some capacity or other only to see them beaten up. He can't bend his arm ever since his mother walked in on him masturbating (her hair falls out - shown in gruesome flashback). Ivan (Sam Louwyck), sporting the worst haircut in rock 'n' roll, is the deaf guitarist. Shouts 'What?' a lot. Dries says that his handicap is that he can't drum. Perfect! He's lying. He just finds this band too interesting to pass up.

Dries is surprised to find that the band (by now named The Feminists) are actually very proficient musicians. At the first rehearsal they decide to do a cover of Devo's Mongoloid (a natural choice) and are soon belting out a stunning version of it. If you love hardcore punk you are in for a treat as musically this film is superbly scored. The only band on the soundtrack that most people will probably be familiar with is Mogwai, but the bands in the film have all real groups behind them. The Millionaires provide the music for The Feminists.

They decide to enter a punk battle of the bands contest and are annoyed to find that their rivals, Harry Mulisch (named after a Dutch writer) have also entered. Harry Mulisch's singer is a racist biker called Big Dick (Jan Hammenecker). His name is not an ironic reference to Little Richard. Fifty centimetres, in case you were wondering. But soon it begins to look as if The Feminists won't make it as far as the gig. They begin to fall apart - one of them is sectioned - and replacements start to alter the chemistry. So much for the basic plot...

The characterisation isn't exactly deep, but the direction is audacious. The credits show the band's journey to Dries' house on bicycle, but the film runs in reverse. It's amazing to watch, especially as Keon keeps getting into fights. The fascination is wondering how they start. Keon is also filmed walking around on the ceiling of his flat, which no-one comments on. There are hints that none of this might be real. Dries is shown writing up some of it (a good writer cannibalises everything), but then he is shown participating in the scene he has just written, which is then given a bizarrely funny noir twist. What is reality anyway? It's only a film. You'll probably know by now whether this is one that you'll enjoy or not.

Rest assured, there are plenty of atrocities that haven't even been touched on in this review. If anything, Mortier, who also wrote the screenplay, is guilty of trying too hard. As the characters give their brief reasons for their actions at the end, it feels as if he is trying to gross-out the viewer with a new atrocity in every sentence. The film's not perfect and much of the laughter it provokes is of the nervous variety, but it's certainly not dull. Mortier is going to be worth watching in the future. Apparently this is only his first film. Describing it as a cross between Trainspotting and Man Bites Dog is a bit obvious, but there are also strong similarities to Scorsese's Bringing Out The Dead on display here.

DVD extras? Stacks of them... As well as the original trailer, there are three music videos. There's one for The Feminists by The Millionares, a Flip Krowler video (Harry Mulisch in the film), and footage of a group called Overdo Hykers that was cut from the battle of the bands scene in the film. Then there's a half-hour documentary on the making of the film, where they've rather cruelly included some of the auditions for the film. One suspects that there was not a big pool of Flemish actors for a filmmaker to draw upon - it's like The X-Factor from hell. And the production itself wasn't exactly plain sailing. But, hey - that's punk rock.
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