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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
April 28, 2006

Hustlers, hookers and the apocalypse

Two dark tales are now out on DVD

Sex and drugs, two arms of the almighty triumvirate of youth, can be woven together to form fascinating tapestries.

When the style is that of the native people in Manitoba, the tapestry takes the form of Noam Gonick�s Stryker; when influenced more by Argentinean folk crafts, it becomes Edgardo Cozarinsky�s Rondo Nocturna (Night Watch), both now available on DVD.

In Night Watch, the protagonist is young hustler Victor, selling his body and drugs on All Souls Eve, a mystical night when the dead can cross over into the world of the living, seeking their loved ones in the hopes of bringing them back to the great beyond forever.

Along the way, the viewer meets the police inspector who is in love with the young hustler, another young male prostitute who takes him to a high-class bathhouse, and an ambassador with an apartment full of rent boys who complains incessantly about the thought of being sent to a European country where he won�t be able to live like a king.

Victor also runs into a duo of ex-lovers, each with a couple of things in common: a former hustler who now drives a cab and a young woman who knew Victor back before he moved to the city.

Their shared traits? Mysterious scars on their necks and attempts on Victor�s life.

Coupled with attempted hit-and-runs, Victor may not survive the night. If he does, however, he might emerge into the dawn a more complete person.

The more active of the two films, however, is Stryker, Gonick�s follow-up to Hey Happy, a delirious tale of sex, drugs, techno music and the apocalypse.

Stryker is a slightly less bizarre tale than the previous film.

In Winnipeg slang, a stryker is a person who wants to join a gang. The character of Stryker never actually expresses an interest in joining one of the rival gangs in the film; he simply moves from one to the other, finding a degree of acceptance in each.

The Asian Bomb Squad, led by half-Asian, half-Native Omar, took over the drugs and prostitution racket in Winnipeg�s North End when Mama Ceece, who ran the Indian Posse with an iron fist, was sent to jail.

The big, butch bad girl is out of jail, and she�s putting the band back together, going into bloody conflict with Omar and his boys.

Young Stryker, who never speaks in the entire film, flits back and forth between the two gangs, as comfortable with the transsexual prostitutes as he is with the over-muscled Filipino thugs.

While Omar likes the girls, he also likes boys who dress as girls, and maybe boys as well.

Mama Ceece pretty much only likes girls, although apparently she and Omar had a relationship at some point, leading to the scar across his throat.

And Stryker? He likes matches. A lot.

Director Gonick noted in an interview with Senses of Cinema that Stryker�s silence may be due to fetal alcohol syndrome, a major problem in Native American communities across the continent.

However, Stryker may also be a trickster, that specific stripe of deity whose mischief often leads to destruction, creation or major change.

Native mythology is filled with tricksters, and it does seem that Stryker�s presence, while perhaps not sparking the events in the film, certainly helps them along.

While Night Watch is an interesting, good-looking film, Stryker is independent filmmaking at its finest. Gonick used a cast composed primarily of non-actors, yet the performances were believable. He also created a humorous film out of very dark material.

Night Watch is out on TLA Video, Stryker from Strand Releasing.

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