You can never go home again, particularly if you’re a former local legend gone bad. “First Round Down,” an offbeat new film starring “Orphan Black’s” Dylan Bruce is a story of hockey, hitmen and hometown expectations.
Split into three sections—or periods—Bruce plays Hamilton, Ontario’s Tim Tucker, a junior hockey star and prodigy on and off the ice. When an injury ends his NHL dreams he goes off the grid, disappearing, leaving behind his pregnant girlfriend Kelly Quinn (“The Republic Of Doyle’s” Rachel Wilson) and all traces of the life he once knew. After ten years of doing wet work as a Montreal mob enforcer he returns home after his parents pass away to look after his younger brother and get his life back on track. “Winning has been harder to come by since you haven’t been around,” says his old coach. “Winning has been harder since hockey hasn’t been around,” comes Tim’s rueful reply. A job as a pizza delivery driver is less than satisfying—customers who don’t tip bring out his bad side—so before long he takes on the proverbial one last job to make money to look after his brother and possibly woo Kelly.
A Cancon soundtrack—heavy on Junkhouse, Sloan, The Northern Pikes and Triumph—fuels the action. “First Round Down” is working class Tarantino, a scrappy crime story that proudly wears its low budget status on its sleeve, wisely investing in story and characters instead of oversized set pieces.
Bruce, Quinn and John Kapelos (playing a mob boss) keep things lively but it is the filmmaking that impresses. Full of energy, it’s a grubby popcorn flick with the spirit of a hockey fight.