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Buried on Sunday (aka Northern Extremes)

Available at amazon.com

Buried On SundayReview by The Wolfwalker

Maury Chaykin plays Dexter Cannon, a lawyer who is sent to the small island of Solomon Gundy to inform the inhabitants that they cannot fish for the next three years. It seems the Ministry of Fisheries needs to cut the national fishing quota by 4% and by some stroke of luck, that's exactly the amount the tiny island is catching. The islanders do not take the news very well and in a moment of passion set out to hang the messenger.

Here's poor Dex on the bed of a pick up truck, noose around his neck with the motor to the vehicle running. Enter one mayor/minister, Augustus Knickle. He might be a tad late for the town meeting but he does manage to show up before the night's activity is wrapped up.

Not enough excitement for the evening you say? How about a Russian nuclear sub that practically washes up onto their shore? Most of the crew, including the fearless Captain, abandon ship, leaving the cook as the highest ranking person on board.

And she wants to defect.

The good mayor takes a stand with a little help from the sub. The islanders not only won't give up fishing but he's decided they will secede from Canada as well.

I appear to be getting rather wordy. Let me see if I can sum it up a bit.

  • things heat up
  • the government won't back down
  • an army is raised (like I'd let a couple of those guys have guns)
  • the Russian programer programs the bomb and shortly thereafter goes up in spontaneous combustion
  • Dex practises being dead
  • Canadian planes circle overhead
  • A small skirmish breaks out with both sides firing
and
  • When the dust clears we find one casualty.
Paul plays a very ordinary guy who is doing what he hopes is right for the whole island. It's obvious he isn't the hero type but he does the best he can with what he has. I liked him in this. He came across as very human.

Buried On Sunday is a must to see. I won't tell you exactly how it ends but be warned: do wait until all the credits go by.

Maury Chaykin, Denise Virieux and Paul Gross in Buried On SundayReview by Brian D Johnson, Maclean's, 26th April 1993

COD'S DOMINION: the fish war takes a strange, satiric turn

BURIED ON SUNDAY
Directed by Paul Donovan

With Newfoundland's CODCO troupe slicing its way through the national ego, the East Coast seems to serve as the serrated edge of Canadian satire. Isolation from the centres of power and commerce can foster an acute sense of the absurd. And Halifax writer-director Paul Donovan has tried to harness that spirit in a brave new movie called Buried on Sunday. A tale of disenfranchised fisherman who go ballistic (literally), it is like a Cod War version of the Cold War comedies Dr. Strangelove and The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming. The story takes place on a fictional island off Canada's Atlantic coast called Solomon Gundy. After Ottawa suspends its fishing rights, the tiny community declares its independence, buys a Russian submarine, then aims its nuclear missiles at America's Mount Rushmore and the amusement park Canada's Wonderland.

As satire, Buried on Sunday is on target. It serves as a sharp, timely comment on the fractured state of Canadian federalism. But, like federalism, the movie sometimes founders by going off in a lot of different directions at once. Too often, it abandons its satirical agenda by lapsing into earnest drama. And although it is crisply directed and beautifully photographed, it never finds a steady course.

The story starts out on an even keel. An addled federal politician named Dexter (Maury Chaykin) shows up at a Solomon Gundy town-hall meeting with some bad tidings. The minister of fisheries and atmosphere (Henry Czerny), speaking from Ottawa via a live video feed, announces that the government has decided to suspend the island's fishing rights for three years because of depleted stocks.

AugustusThe village mayor, Augustus (Paul Gross), who doubles as the local pastor and mini-golf entrepreneur, rallies the outraged islanders to secede from Canada. To back up their fishing claims, they buy a nuclear submarine from a crew of Russian defectors - along with the services of its missile programmer (Tommy Sexton), a vodka-soaked sailor whose body is prone to spontaneous combustion.

The humor is enjoyably off-kilter. Chaykin plays Dexter, who calls himself "a lawyer - a liar - for the prime minister,'' with deadpan brilliance. He has an almost spooky presence on-screen, an ability to make time stand still while the irony comes into focus. But it is Paul Gross, as the mayor, who is the hero. And the sincere conviction of his leading-man role seems strangely at odds with the satire. At one point, the plot veers into a serious romance between the mayor and the minister's aide, played with solemnity by Denise Virieux. Her character keeps insisting on the reality of the situation. "Wake up, it's not a joke,'' she says. "These are real guns and real missiles.''

But it is a joke, at least some of the time. And the movie is undermined by its failure to settle on a consistent tone. Still, although Buried on Sunday seems less than the sum of its parts, it has many points of interest. The film is riddled with amusing asides, including a rich cameo by Louis Del Grande as the prime minister. In the end, Buried on Sunday is admirable for its idiosyncratic spirit, its determination to be both cheeky and sincere. And there is an odd beauty in its incoherence: like Canada, it cannot decide what it wants to be.