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Sunday, 28 February 2016

Banjo (2015)

This is all purely from the weathered regions of my ever flaky memory, but I'm sure I can recall an old Abbot and Costello sketch where the two of them are taking turns to watch out for something while the other sleeps. However, the dastardly Abbot cheats Costello by continually moving the clock forward so that the poor soul barely catches any zzz's and before he realises it, the night has passed by for him as he's been cheated out of his allotted time. I think I know how he feels because there seems to be some intrinsic link between my age and the sense of how quickly time now passes by. It seems that as I get older the faster time seems to go, in fact the years seem to be travelling by so fast I'm sure that some bastard somewhere is cheating me out of some personal time and rolling the clock ever faster forward when I'm not looking. It's the only logical answer.

Take this film for example. When I asked the films writer/director and Troma alumni, Liam Regan if I get get a look at his now completed movie, Banjo, well it seemed like only a few months since I had ran a piece on my blog about the crowdfunding campaign to get it made in the first place. As I trawled through my plethora of articles I found out with something of a startle that it was actually 2013 when it was written. Bloody hell, doesn't time fly when you're having, er, fun?! So if any of you out there know where the last couple of years have gone please be a pal and let me know where the hell they are hiding.

Having said that, the one correlation that I have noticed in my life is that as I get older my taste for the weird and exploitation seems to also steadily increase. Now before my legal team get all in a fluster let me quantify that last sentence, I'm talking about my taste in films, not my weekend activities. After all, those charges were never brought to a court of law.

So, back to the actual point of this article (yes, sometimes there actually is a point) the recently released Banjo. Let me gently slide in your general direction a tasty slice of synopsis.......

" We meet Peltzer Arbuckle, a meek and bullied office employee, humiliated by his megalomaniac boss, teasing colleagues and his cheating partner. Peltzer spends his days in misery, stuck in his own mundane, nightmarish reality. 

Once news about his embarrassing sexual accident makes it’s way around the workplace, Peltzer decides to put up with his humiliation no more, and conjures up his childhood imaginary friend Ronnie. Peltzer’s world is soon turned upside down, when Ronnie attempts to manipulate him to exact revenge on his tormenting co-workers in the most gruesome fashion.

As the body count stacks up, Peltzer must ultimately decide whether to runaway from his past or take control of his future, as he battles between sanity and madness, in this twisted tale of infidelity, revenge and snapped banjo strings."

Let me say from the outset that Banjo is a completely twisted over the top slice of dark exploitation interspersed with dollops of both gory yeuch and comedy factor - in other words total fun. I loved it!

If there's one thing that dismays me about contemporary film making it's the apparent lack of film makers out there prepared to take a bit of a chance with their creations. This may in part be due to the feeling these days that many people seem to be simply waiting in expectation for the latest thing to offend them them. I know that people such as John Waters and Lloyd Kaufman may polarise opinion in terms of the quality and sensibilities of their work (I happen to love them both). However, the one thing cannot be denied is their willingness not to play it safe and pander to the most common denominator when it came to audience expectations. Boundaries were continually challenged and edges frequently blurred by such filmmakers, while all the while never taking their audience for granted or insulting their intelligence. They were upfront in what they were producing and provided no excuses for what they did, while asking for none in return.

It is refreshing to see in this film producing focus group world that there are some who are still trying to maintain those creative sensibilities whilst adding touches of their own unique identity. Banjo is certainly a child of Troma, but with a distinct British flavour that will polarise people from the outset with it's quintessential independent Tromaesque values of not wanting to leave one bad taste stone unturned- you will love it or you will hate it, something that I'm sure will please Liam Regan no end.

The cast in general offer stout support to the theme of a meek man on a journey of retribution and inheriting the earth against those who may have tormented him. James Hamer-Morton as the mild mannered Peltzer Arbuckle is excellent as the individual who puts up with the constant humiliation from all and sundry - well at least for a while. The rest supporting cast on the whole are solidly dependable in providing a perverse counterpoint to the meekness of Pelter's character.

Yes, everything so far is excellent, from the relentless acerbic script to the obsessive attention to detail in order to make a fully authentic piece of genre filming. The jewel in the crown though has to be the tour-de-force performance of Damian Morter as Ronnie who completely steals every scene he appears in throughout the film. Whether it be the plethora of biting one-liners, the manic twinkle in the eyes or the physical presence with his array of frantic posturing, it simply contributes to a performance that quite simply astounded me. The frantic and at times unsettling energy that this creates in the relationship between Peltzer and this figment of his imagination is a sight to behold.

The cruel, witty and at times hilarious dialogue, combined with Morter's comedy timing makes what could have been a annoyingly one-dimensional character into a wise-cracking lovable rogue who surely should be the (not so secret) weapon of the whole film. If I had but one criticism of Ronnie it would be the feeling that his role was slightly underused throughout - you simply find yourself wanting more. Oh, hang on - maybe that was intentional from Mr Regan?........ sneaky bugger!

It's quite obvious that Liam Regan's intention was to show his cinematic inspirations for all to see so it's no surprise to see that Banjo also contains its fair share of in your face gross-out scenes. Once again, this may polarise the opinions of those who may have become overly sanitised by the bland offerings of some films that purport to be innovative and fresh. As usual, I don't want to be a spoiler whore so I will try and avoid any direct references to the events, but it's safe to say that Liam is was quite keen for the effects team to go all out with the selections of bodily fluids on offer throughout. It's safe to say that I won't think of used condoms in quite the same way again........erm, not that I often think of used condoms, obviously.......

The film rattles on at an ever frantic pace until the final act, which I felt rather nicely tied up some of the plots loose strands leaving me wit a distinct feeling of cinematic satisfaction. Credit should be given to the writer/director plus his cast and crew for providing a genuinely entertaining example of of exactly the sort of film that many people such as myself are crying out for. It may not provide much in the sense of philosophical and thought provoking contemplations, but that was clearly never Regan's intention to do so. He should be applauded for taking the risks that he has in producing an old school/new school movie relentless in its dark British quirkiness. It will have you grinning from ear to ear throughout while in between that you'll also be alternating between cringing and staring in disbelief. The person sat watching it next you may well hate it, but that's their problem.

To find out more about BANJO then check out the film's website at

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