Rossif Sutherland and Paul Gross are Canadian soldiers in Hyena Road.

Reel Reviews: Canadians tell own war story in Hyena Road

Taylor and Howe say, Hyena Road is the "Canadian Sniper.”

  • Oct. 18, 2015 2:00 p.m.

In addition to rooting out the Taliban, Canadian soldiers in Kandahar, Afghanistan are also assigned projects, such as the proposed construction of Hyena Road.

In order to build the road, they will need the co-operation of opium plantations. In a war zone where you might have to ally yourself with criminals, the moral ambiguity of warfare becomes further muddied. Ancient tribal animosity, dogmatic customs and ordinary human fear mix into hot Afghanistan soil, as it always has, but modern war is different.

We say, “It’s Canadian Sniper.”

TAYLOR: It’s not a bad thing to be compared to American Sniper, not on any moral or political grounds, just as a movie.

Hyena Road is an exciting, occasionally moving story, a bit of a statement, a bit of revelation and a whole lot of the same ol’ thing. It’s very glossy, like an expensive Hollywood movie. It carries with it the exact same baggage as its main characters, which is to say a lot and atypically: Ryan (Rossif “the other” Sutherland) is a sniper who believes one bullet can make a difference. Pete (Paul Gross) is the unhappy but sympathetic intel officer, making deals with criminals on CIA payrolls.

In many ways, Hyena Road is a series of clichés, as if Gross (who wrote and directed the film) was solely imitating Hollywood. Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg of things I found wrong with this film. Oddly, at the end of my ramblings, I’m still going to recommend you see it.

HOWE: First the good: Hyena Road is a very interesting and well put together movie. I felt it was better than American Sniper just because it’s not all flag waving, “look as us, we are the best,” etc.  It has a gritty, real feel to it and to Gross credit has to be given.

On the other hand, I felt it could have been even better with the use of better actors. I didn’t know that the guy that played Ryan was a Sutherland; coming from such a family of talented actors I would expect better from him. I thought he was the worst of the bunch of bad acting on the set, and if you put Mr. Gross in a white suit and cowboy hat, he could have been Col. Sanders.

TAYLOR: Exactly. So what province did our two main characters grow up in, because neither of them sounded anything other than American? I admit, perhaps such concerns are splitting hairs. It only helps solidify my theory that Gross is simply emulating Hollywood, right down to the pointless attempts to humanize the characters with sappy plot points that do nothing but telegraph outcomes.

There are two things that save Hyena Road: the research that went into the backdrop and “the locals.” The two main allies in the film, “The Cleaner” Nabil Elouahabi and “The Ghost” Neamat Arghandabi deliver the strongest performances: the former as a bit of comic relief and the latter with a serious intensity.

HOWE: I agree that people should go see this. It is one of our nation’s stories, made by a Canadian for Canadians. It’s not all glitzy and razzmatazz like its U.S. counterparts.

– Taylor gives Hyena Road 2.5 Timbits out of 5.

– Howe gives it 3.5 clean windows out of 5.

Brian Taylor and Peter Howe review the latest films for The Morning Star Friday and Sunday.

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