Jephté Bastien’s new feature is a bleak drama that dives wholeheartedly into the underworld of Montreal’s north end. Jecko is a troubled hood of mixed heritage growing up on the mean streets of the Saint Michel neighbourhood, who trades the misery of a foster home for the edgier family of a street gang. As years go by, Jecko works his way up the ladder, but questions about his actions start to bother him, questions that will lead him to a confrontation that would have seemed impossible when he was a young hood holding up the corner store.
The film’s writing is generally snappy, with dialogue that nicely reflects the cadences and linguistic mix that you’d hear if you dropped onto a North End street on any given day. That being said, things do take a turn for the contrived on occasion, as if a line or action is only there to move us towards a brilliant statement. In one such scene, Jecko takes a Haitian flag out of his pocket and rips it in two to make a point about Bloods, Crips and Haitians. Okay, he makes a fair point. But where did that flag come from?
Similarly, the acting isn’t of a uniform high degree, but it’s generally very good. Henri Pardo, known (or rather unknown) to English-language filmgoers for bit parts in Hollywood flicks like The Sum of All Fears or Taking Lives, shines in the lead role, as do Edouard Fontaine and Alain Lino Eli Bastien as Jecko’s cronies. And Benz Antoine hovers over all compellignly as Brooklyn, the thug boss.
Bastien’s name pops up all over this movie, from the writing and directing credits to the editing and even the songs. Bastien is more than capable in all of these roles: the songs are poignant and utterly perfect, and the editing deftly keeps the film moving at a good pace all the way through. it’s also clear that Exit 67 is a work of love by a man who is trying hard to make a statement about what life is like for some in Montreal North and St-Michel, and how there’s a ray of hope for even the baddest of badasses. And, after as dark and chilling a film as this is, that ray of light is something the audience can cling to and warm itself by.