I know you're all jet-setters with frantic lifestyles that demand you keep a strict accounting of your time, but if you find yourself wanting something to entertain you on your next layover between Ibiza and Bali, I highly recommend that you take a moment to Google random combinations of words. The results can be downright magical.
I don't remember exactly what I was looking for when I came across the Canadian micro-budget martial arts revenge film "They Killed My Cat," but I know that I wound up watching this trailer (I'll wait while you watch, and don't worry--no animals are injured, although a cat was inconvenienced and one guy looks like he might've gotten a nasty burn from fireworks):
The last time I saw that kind of majestic ineptitude and sincerity of spirit was in Tommy Wiseau's "The Room" (which I love with a soulfulness that I don't even usually have for living things). I watched the trailer for "They Killed My Cat" three or four times in absolute delight before vowing to get my hands on the movie. Let it be underscored that the cartoon image above is actual promotional art for this film. If you're not moved by that, then I can safely assume that you are made of stone. Lo, into my hands did come a copy of this movie, and it was just what I thought it would be: an absolutely earnest hot mess (my favorite kind of hot mess, for those who haven't been paying attention).
Let's rewind for a second before I go into platitudes over a movie that will likely leave most folks dozing off or aggravated, waiting for the good bits to pop up on screen. When I was a young teen, I dreamed of being involved in the filmmaking process, but I exhibited absolutely no talent for the kind of teamwork, technical skill, patience, fundraising, scriptwriting or editorial know-how it takes to put together a movie. After an attempt at filming a supernatural thriller in the graveyard behind a friend's house nearly ended with police involvement and a trip to the hospital for one of the lead actors, I decided that I belonged nowhere in the vicinity of a film production. I let the absence of innate, magical, sprung-fully-formed-from-the-forehead-of-a-deity talent stop me from making movies because I was a self-conscious kid. Self-consciousness kills souls, but I only learned that much later in life.
"I did NOT sign a release for this. And I am being VERY inconvenienced right now. Also: meow."
Fortunately for all of us, not everyone falls prey to the same sort of spirit-stifling self-consciousness, and there are creative people out there who will slog through making a film on the meagrest of budgets and offer up the off-beat fruits of their labors for public consumption. These films might not always be good, but the honesty one finds in them is a much-needed palate cleanser after the cynical cash-ins currently flickering onto most multiplex screens.
All of which brings me back to "They Killed My Cat."
This is the face of a man on important Burger King business.
Produced by, directed by, written by and starring Canadian martial artist Elliott Scott, "They Killed My Cat" tells the story of a man who is left for dead by thugs who've killed his girlfriend and his cat. Upon awakening, he must regain his memories and learn martial arts from a mysterious Asian woman. Once he has gathered his strength, he takes on the Black Dragons, who may very well be entirely plausible as the most dangerous gang in Moncton, New Brunswick.
"They Killed My Cat" is in no way a traditionally good film. It's not an undiscovered gem of mini-budget filmmaking with a vision that only slightly outpaces its abilities. The pacing is not good, the dialogue is frequently garbled due to a non-existent sound mix, and yet I found this movie to be incredibly endearing. For starters, this is one of the least marketing-motivated movies I have ever seen. Elliott Scott seems to be having an amazing time making his movie, and what he lacks in skill he more than makes up for in heart. After a slow initial fifteen minutes, the remaining forty-five minutes are full of goofy good-natured weirdness. I love absurdity, and this movie is full of insane scenes that don't seem to realize that they're insane--or maybe they realize exactly how insane they are and just roll with that. Certain moments distill the movie's wonderfulness:
- The frolicking sequence between the lead character and his girlfriend (shown in the trailer) in which they skip down an alleyway while holding tight to the beloved feline.
- The feats of agility during the training montage are adorably achievable and include "almost falling off of things" and "doing push-ups." It kind of reminds me of what my little brother probably thought kung fu training looked like when he was seven.
- The fist-bumping gang members who half-heartedly chant "Black Dragons forever" while drinking domestic pilsner in a bar called "THE HIDEOUT."
- The use of fireworks to substitute for dynamite used to blow up a bridge at a local park.
There's a joy present in the DNA of this film that I found to be really infectious. It's silly and it's not particularly well made, but if you open your brain to its oddball delights, "They Killed My Cat" is a wonderful example of cinematic art brut.
Article on Elliott Scott and Bad Acting Good Kung Fu in East Canada's Times & Transcript - January 2010
DVD copies of "They Killed My Cat" can be purchased through the Bad Acting Good Kung Fu webstore.