Mountain Fury (1990)

Directed by William Dever Jr.
Raedon Home Video VHS

The back of the video box promises “…the ultimate battle.” It says it was made with “all the fury  and passion that we’ve come to expect from modern day war films….” I’ve watched the film four times and this does seem like hyperbole. But then, I realized that this film was made in Alberta, Canada. I’ve never seen a war film from Alberta, Canada. For all I know, Mountain Fury may be the ultimate representation of war from Canada. For me, it’s the best SOV Canadian film I’ve watched since The Bounty Hunters. It tells an impassioned story in the most fragmented and confused fashion possible and I loved it. I could not wait to watch it a second time. I couldn’t wait to show my wife. Now, I can’t wait to show you.

The film is all about location. A rotten corporation, made up of jerks who smirk a lot, are going to cut down a beautiful stretch of forest to put up high rises and the like. An environmental lawyer armed with a rotund sense of justice engages in high-powered research to discredit the corporation’s claim on the land. Unbeknownst to our big-boned barrister, a group of freedom fighters deep in the woods are also endeavoring to bring down this mammoth corporation. But, they don’t use research. Fancy city lawyers use research and facts. These freedom fighters use arrows, swords and murder to accomplish their aims. There are also some forest rangers who really don’t care too much. Even about the forest. Then, there’s a plucky reporter who gets kidnapped by the face painted freedom fighters. Yes, I know. It doesn’t sound so hot. But, two great things propel it from the pits to the heights: the fun acting and the odd, odd structure.

The acting is the easier part to explain. All the corporate people are yuppies to the extreme. For a colorful Canadian buck, they will sell your mother to a parachute testing company who will proceed to use your mom in a mountain parachute experiment. Your mom will be the control group: No parachute. If you’re not there to catch mom, it’s over. The freedom fighters are all very earnest. They don’t appear in the movie much, however, and they don’t actually contribute to the ending. So, they feel a little underdone, overwrought and goofy. The lawyer is in there doing his best. But, he keeps getting flashbacks to a young version of himself who isn’t a very good actor. It’s tough to shake the little kid when you see the grown man. The rangers consist of the portly one who doesn’t want to be there and the smaller, wilier one who always has a wisecrack and always seems to know what he’s doing. They’re pitched as a comedy team. And they’re lovable. They’re just not funny and, as with the freedom fighters, they don’t actually contribute to the end. The reporter is fine, although some of her line deliveries have a familiar lilt. I realized that they reminded me of my performance as Santa’s lawyer in our 4th grade production of Santa on Trial. I gave it my all but who knows what it was I actually gave. Over-earnest mixed with misplaced sarcasm and odd cadences. The reporter and I trained at the same place.

And then, there’s the lady who runs the newspaper. She’s an older lady who always wears a cap over a mop of hair. She has a very wavy voice and is rather randy. One scene has her rolling around on top of a co-worker in the least erotic thing I’ve seen since I watched two squirrels screwing last Thursday. Even my dog George shrugged at me and decided to go back in the house. The lady is a bit like the non-witch version of the crazy broad from Dark Echoes. She’s awesome. I would watch her in a series of movie where she teams up with the lawyer. They would save the day a lot and there would be sexual tension. Oh yes, there would be sexual tension, my friends.

Then, there’s that darn structure. It’s probably what I loved most about the movie. I’ll try to explain it but it’s more of an EXPERIENCE.

The film begins with beautiful helicopter shots of the forests and the mountains. Credits roll. Synths play. It’s lovely. I could have watched that for all 76 minutes of the film’s running time. Eventually, the film proper kicks in. And then a few minutes later, we’re floating back out over the mountains with the music playing. And then we go back to the characters and their machinations for a bit. Then, we’re right back to the helicopter shots. Then, back to the…  I counted apx. 18 times when, at the end of a scene, the film did this. Sometimes there’s 5 minutes or more in between the interludes. Sometimes there’s a brief scene that seems more like the director is punctuating a point or an issue and then we’re right back in the sky.

It fragments a film that is already fragmented from so many characters. It’s like a book with a hundred chapters. The starting and the stopping, the repeated return to the majestic grandeur of the forest, reminds us of the beauty of nature. But, after about 10 times, I just kept trying to guess when it would happen again. A film that I was already enjoying was allowing me to participate. Wow. That’s the good stuff.

And the stop and start structure that the interludes bring to Mountain Fury are mirrored in the story itself. It introduces all the characters over a long period of time in short, choppy scenes. It feels like it is moving everyone into the woods for a confrontation. But, it does nothing of the sort. Many of the main characters don’t even meet. And the ending is not a confrontation but the discovery of a fact in an old newspaper article that saves the day. In fact, I missed the ending because I got up to floss. So much buildup. So many references to the beauty of the land that must be saved. So many characters who cover all sides of the issue. But then, it ends. It’s like watching a soap opera that starts a half dozen plotlines and, after resolving one, wraps up.

All of this writing is over-analysis at it’s most obvious, though. Get yourself a copy of Mountain Fury. Sit down with it and enjoy. (I haven’t even mentioned the fragmented and confusing coda of the film.) It’s SOV fun that smothers you in random incident and constant interruption. But, none of it is frustrating. It’s fabulous. If I were the sort who said this sort of thing, I’d say “I was never furious watching Mountain Fury.” I’ll spare us all. Just watch it.