I’m no expert on Canadian filmmaking, but a cursory Internet research into the subject revealed that the Canadian film industry is in a largely pitiful state. Sure, there is plenty of Canadian talent that does well in America, and lots of films are made in Toronto, but films funded by Canada, set in Canada, made my Canadian filmmakers, and using local talent very rarely succeed. The Canadian government, through Telefilm Canada, has for decades subsidized (or “invested” as they prefer) in Canadian filmmakers in the (dim) hopes of not just propping up local talent, but actually making a profit. Unfortunately, for the most part (excepting the rare success like the modest hit, The Trailer Park Boys 2), Canadian movies not only fail to reach American audiences, they can’t even find success in their own goddamn country. They throw a lot of money at filmmakers, but rarely do they put much behind marketing, and the result is what you’d expect: Hundreds of Canadian films that toil away in obscurity, most of which fail to recoup their government-funded investments.
However, after getting as far as only Atom Egoyan could take them (not very far), in 2003, Telefilm Canada changed it policies and sought to better compete with American movies by not only contributing a huge sum of money to a film geared at younger audiences, but by also channeling a massive amount of money (for Canada) into marketing, which included Pizza Hut tie-ins, a trailer attached to The Matrix, and the widest opening in Canadian history at the time (217 theaters, or the number of screens in Manhattan). That movie was Foolproof, and the results were catastrophic. The $8 million budgeted movie made less than $500,000 in Canada and virtually nothing in the states, where it was released direct-to-DVD. Canada’s attempt to compete on the same level with America was a spectacular failure so massive that Canada legalized same-sex marriage and decriminalized marijuana so they could lick their wounds (and themselves) in a pot-fueled haze.
Indeed, I’m not positive how Foolproof affected Telefilm Canada’s policies going forward, but I can find nothing to indicate that the government-backed agency has attempted again to invest as much money as they did in Foolproof (they put up nearly $4 million), which leads to the only conclusion I can possibly draw with the information I have: Ryan Reynolds killed Canadian film (or at least those films of the big budget (for Canada) variety).
Foolproof stars what was then a budding Canadian star, Ryan Reynolds, coming off of his modest American hit, Van Wilder. Reynolds plays Kevin, part of a trio of friends that like to pull off theoretical heists. That is, they put countless hours into planning capers, but they don’t actually follow through with them, except in make believe. Unfortunately, a gangster, Leo (David Suchet), steals their heist plans, pulls off the heist, and blackmails the trio into pulling off an even bigger heist on his behalf, or else he’ll frame them for the initial heist.
Foolproof, which I’d never even heard of until this week, is not a terrible movie, so long as you set your expectations to Direct-to-DVD fare (it’s currently renting for $.99 on iTunes, and after the divorce, who could resist?). It’s framed well, as in: The heist and the subsequent twist are both clever; it’s the details that are lacking. And by details, I mean: The dialogue, the acting, the directing, and the set design. Reynolds is affable, but he’s not given much to work with, and his smart-assery is not provided any sort of work-out. David Suchet, who many may know from “Poirot,” puts in a deft performance as the criminal mastermind, but the script is hesitant to allow him to be the ruthless asshole the movie desperately needs him to be. Co-star Kristen Booth is from the Julie Benz school of actressin’: She’s gorgeous, but a little wooden. Meanwhile, Joris Jarsky — who is the linchpin character the entire plot rests upon — is disastrous, which might be the kindest word I could use to avoid reopening the wounds of a traumatic acting experience.
Still, for all its many, many faults, Foolproof is decent, lightweight fare, easy on the eyes and even easier on the brain. In fact, had it been loaned the talents of a more heavyweight American director, punched up by an arsenal of Hollywood studio scriptwriters, used actors with melanin, and had been stripped of its weird Canadian sensibility (do you really say “Crikey” in Canada? Or was that some half-assed attempt to appeal to an Australian audience?), it might have been a modest, but forgettable hit with American audiences instead of the film that apparently destroyed Canadian big-budget cinema.