“This is Johnny,” says local self-appointed gangster Shelton (Jonny Brugh), introducing his sister Kelly (Hetty Gaskell-Hahn) to one of his underling ‘boys’. “He’s bloody dynamic.”
Orphaned John (Anton Tennet) really is dynamic. He may just be a small-time criminal in a small town – Thames, New Zealand, to be precise, where the biggest tourist attractions are the automated public toilets outside the bank and a pub called Pisschuggers – but he is on the up and up. His ambitions include moving out of the garage where he currently lives, forming his own gang, stealing money for himself rather than for Shelton, and getting the girl – a girl just like Kelly, who has come “from the big smoke” (of Hamilton!). All that is holding Johnny back is his lack of ‘nuts’, and himself. He even sizes up against his own reflection in the mirror, Travis Bickle-style, with a poster for Taxi Driver visible in the background. So when he robs Wah Lee’s Antiques, he decides to keep the proceeds (including an old bracelet that he has picked up for Kelly), setting himself at odds with Shelton and his crew. Except the bracelet is a ‘temporal dislocator’, allowing John to go back several minutes in time – and so he is able to form a rival gang, the ‘Mega Time Squad’, with only multiple versions of himself as members. Unfortunately, though, John may prove his own worst enemy.
Writer/director Tim van Dammen’s follow-up to 2013’s Romeo And Juliet: A Love Song is as dynamic as its would-be hero. Cut fast and loose, it repeatedly wrong-foots the viewer with surreal narrative surprises, while making hilarious sport of all its characters’ narrow horizons and parochial values. None of the crazy things that happen to the Johns is enough to get in the way of their stopping regularly for a bottle of beer or a meat pie, while the many extra characters each comes with their own foul-mouthed quirks. One sequence where all the Johns sleep in the same hotel room plays out like a schizophrenic riff on the final scene of Trainspotting, with different versions of the same character trying to betray each other and run off with the loot. It is a vivid way of showing a protagonist out of balance, indeed in confllct, with himself.
Ultimately Mega Time Squad is a sweet romance in which one young man grows a pair, learns to stand up for himself, and discovers what he truly values – but along the way, there are vicious stabbings, bloody gunplay and the odd detonation, in a hyperviolent explosion of provincial comedy.
Mega Time Squad was seen and reviewed at Fantasia 2018.