HelloDestroyer_Still_04By Adam Nayman

It’s either genuinely ballsy or calculatedly smart for a young Canadian director to attack the culture and codes of junior hockey. The fact is that Kevan Funk’s Hello Destroyer is set to get a lot of attention at TIFF and beyond, and it’s constructed sturdily enough to stand up to any forthcoming scrutiny, and maybe also built to last in a way that most feature debuts simply are not. The opening scenes suggest Slap Shot (1977) mashed up with Full Metal Jacket (1987) as the rookies on the minor-league Prince George Warriors endure electric-clipper hazing rituals that leave them looking like bullet-headed thugs. Funk’s camera eventually singles out Tyson (Jared Abrahamson), a muscular fourth-liner who seems thick but is smart enough to read between the lines of his coach’s incendiary locker-room rants about sacrifice and camaraderie—and then actually stupid enough to act on them, with the sort of appalling consequences already familiar to hockey fans who remember Todd Bertuzzi and Steve Moore.  Tyson’s ejection from the game and then the league anticipates a deeper estrangement from society at large, and the film’s real subject, which transcends the milieu of professional athletics, is the institutionalizing of male aggression. Abrahamson’s skillful physical acting as a mournful scapegoat is one important tool in the movie’s arsenal; Benjamin Loeb’s cinematography, which keeps splitting the screen into grids and prisms, is another. The severity of the filmmaking does get wearing at nearly two hours, but it’s also perfectly in tune with the subject matter, and Funk exploits the predictability of Tyson’s narrative to give this character study some tragic weight; like a well-lined-up body-check, the final passages make an impact even if you can see them coming from the other end of the rink.