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TIFF 2015 Movie Review: Schneider vs. Bax

TIFF 2015Schneider vs. Bax is a deliciously dark comedy about pitting one hitman against another. In less deft hands, the film would be comprised of two stock “cool” characters and a handful of over-the-top-gun fights in slow motion — not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

This latest dark comedy from Dutch filmmaker Alex van Warmerdam (Borgman) features a pretty straight-forward premise: Today is Schneider’s birthday, and he is awoken by his two lovely daughters. But his quiet day of peace is interrupted when a client named Martens needs to hire him last minute to liquidate a writer, Ramon Bax.

Bax, however, is no ordinary writer, and is also secretly a contract killer. But while Schneider is careful and precise, Bax is absolutely reckless. Not only does he kick his lover out of his cabin, because he almost forgot his daughter is visiting that day, he forgets this is the day Martens and he set a trap to take out Schneider.

While that’s enough story for any film to sink its teeth into, Warmendam’s Schneider vs. Bax is just getting started. The plot unfolds with a series of random chance encounters, bizarre events and drug-filled hallucinations to keep you guessing what will happen next. The film uses violence sparingly, and often in surprising or hilarious ways, but there’s enough horrible events that happen to all the characters to keep the audience wildly entertained. Another fitting title for this film would be Everyone Has A Bad Day.

The setting makes for some interesting dichotomy by filming it in broad daylight in an open swampy area that surrounds Bax’s cabin. The subdued colors and quiet location only add to the absurdity in this comedy of errors.

Both characters have a narrative that is set to collide, but because a majority of the film explores their predicaments and family dynamics, it becomes difficult to take any side. Life is messy, unpredictable, surprising and even a bit unfair, which is where the film really takes its cues from: They are both the protagonists and antagonists of the story.

The build-up to the final encounter is a wild ride, so it’s a bit disappointing that the final duel isn’t as absurd, and goes for a straight-forward finale. While still entertaining in its own right, I just hoped for something a fair bit more clever.

4 out of 5 stars.

Here's the trailer:

Image: Cinéart