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The Hammer nails it

Jackhammer: Local movie delivers big laughs
Trailer Park Boy Rob Wells has a fun role in Victoria realtor Mike Hanus' first feature film — making its world premiere as the Canadian Opening Gala at the Victoria Film Festival.

Get your spray tans on, have an extra-strength protein shake and lather on the baby oil Victoria, because you’re about to get Jackhammered.

Victoria realtor Mike Hanus traded in his suit and tie for a gold lamé thong as he hammered away writing, directing, producing and staring in his first feature film — making its world premiere as the Canadian Opening Gala at the Victoria Film Festival.

According to the VFF program guide, Jackhammer is “Without a doubt, the most ambitious movie shot by Victorians,” with cameos by Hollywood calibre celebrities including Pam Anderson, Jamie Kennedy, Rob Wells, Nicole Sullivan, Peter Shinkoda and YouTube celebrity comic Peter Chao.

It took more than three years and some serious credit card debt to make, but for Hanus it was a labour of love. “It doesn’t even feel like work to me.”

Hanus stars as Jackhammer, an award-winning professional male peeler and wannabe rapper, who gets himself into trouble because of a hefty debt owed to a protein-dealing thug (played by Rob Wells of Trailer Park Boys).

After “The Hammer”’s younger brother-from-another-father Julius (played by Guy Christie) gets blacklisted from the theatre by a sleazy casting agent (played by Jamie Kennedy) and later finds his girlfriend in bed with some “bunny” else, the two are reunited and Julius quickly finds himself being swallowed up by the world of male stripping — with its Russian mobsters, crazy parties and “thunder-strong” protein shakes. He quickly discovers that old ladies die during lapdances all the time. Dealing with it is just part of the job description.

The movie is hilarious and intentionally unintelligent. Jokes about “homosensuals” and “that fairy theatre shit” abound, although used in an astute (and quite ironic) way.

Hanus wrote the initial script after finding frustration with the audition process in Vancouver. He wasn’t getting the roles he wanted, so he decided to write his own character-driven comedy, in the same vein as Adam Sandler. “I knew I had to pave my own road,” he says.

He handed the script over to Guy Christie and Duncan MacLellan, who helped tighten up the story. Jason Burkhart and Hanus’ partner (both on-screen and off) Silvana Azurdia also get writing credits.

The film was produced by Hanus, Azurdia and McKinley Hlady. Executive producer credits go to Burkhart, Dani Zaniceanu and Chris Orchard (who also did the special effects). Sound designer Jose Sobrinho came on board two years ago after finding the gig posted on the Vancouver Film School job board.

“We knew we wanted to compete on an international scale,” says Hanus, whose go-big-or-go-home attitude was a driving factor behind the film’s success in attracting attention from Hollywood (even attracting attention from ET Canada when Pam Anderson was in town to shoot).

“You can’t be scared to pick up the phone, even if success seems ridiculously out of reach or completely improbable,” says Hanus, who says he can’t count the number of rejections he was handed (including David Hasselhoff and Tom Selleck).

And getting those celebrities on board helped propel the film forward. Telefilm, who had previously turned the film down for a grant, came on board (with a $50,000 grant for post production) after Wells agreed to be in the film.

Shot entirely in Victoria, Jackhammer offers local audiences a chance to see their city on the big screen — cruising over the Johnson Street Bridge, busking at Hillside Liquor Store and flying through the Atrium building’s courtyard (using a heli-cam.) Even local DJs Degree One and Miami Nights 1984 (who scored the film) make an appearance. Local businesses Svelte Cocktail Lounge, the Oswego and Parkside hotels, Morningside Estate and hair salon Chop Shop also donated their locations to the project. Langford’s Mount Wells donated its recording and production studio space to the project as well.

Hanus rented the videography equipment from local film cooperative CineVic, where he met former equipment coordinator Dan Carruthers who became director of photography (along with Jerry Kott).

For an indie movie made with an indie-sized budget, the finished product is an impressive professional-looking production that truly took a community to make. And if selling out 11 days prior to the premiere is any indication, the community is excited  to see their work.  M



World Premiere

Sat., Feb. 2 • 6:45pm

Empire Theatres #6 — SOLD OUT


Update: New screening added: Sunday February 10th • The Vic • noon