Vancouver gets to really play itself in Dark Harvest, a viciously entertaining thriller set inside the not-quite-legal marijuana trade.
With the end of prohibition looming, grow-op honcho Carter wants out, planning to open a restaurant in Nicaragua with his buddy Earl (Viv Leacock) and girlfriend Alexis (Chelsey Reist).
Played by James Hutson, who also directs from his own tightly wound screenplay, Carter’s a good guy not quite prepared for the exceedingly tricky maneuvers ahead—or the fallout from Alexis’s divorce from rage-case, Mark (Derek Hamilton). It’s the first signal that Dark Harvest wants to jumble our sympathies and short-circuit any expectations we might have about its cast of vividly drawn lowlifes.
To that end, and with Earl turning up dead within the film’s first 10 minutes, Carter becomes the reluctant partner to a nightmare cop called Bernie, played to the hilt by a wheezing A.C. Peterson.
Bernie is way off the books, even for a dirty pig, and so is Peterson’s performance. He’d steal the film if the field wasn’t otherwise filled with the likes of Tygh Runyon and Hugh Dillon as a narc who might be even worse than Bernie. Lighting up for the first time in a long time, a subtly amusing Cheech Marin rounds out the cast as Carter’s mentor, Ricardo, aka “Latin Heat”.
Honestly, Dark Harvest is the kind of film I wish Vancouver would make more of; a humble but smart B-movie made with grit, economy, and a real sense of place elevated by Ryan Petey’s bruised cinematography. (A number of green/yellow-hued scenes are set inside actual grow-ops. Cast and crew were reportedly blindfolded on arrival.)
This is a city I actually recognize colliding with a splendidly pulpy feel for the offbeat. Asked how he injured his leg, which we know was almost sliced off by a bear trap, Bernie half slurs to a baffled Carter: “I was eating pussy.” And then Hutson lets the line just hang there, giving us one more tiny burst of flavour between killings and chase scenes, which pile up as Dark Harvest speeds towards its climax.
If all the double and triple crossings go a little Big Heat in the end, that’s cool with me. I’ll take the Black Mountain tunes as compensation.