out of Five
Running time: 104
A punk film in more ways than one, Ex Drummer is sordid, relentlessly nihilistic and extremely violent, but it's also impressively directed and unlike anything else you'll see this year.
What's it all about?
Dries Vanhegen stars as Dries, a famous author who's asked to be the drummer of a punk band made up of handicapped, drug-addled misfits. Their one requirement is that Dries also be handicapped, which Dries gets round by telling them that he can't, in fact, play the drums, before deciding on the name of the band: The Feminists.
The other band members include: violent sex offender Koen de Geyter (Norman Baert), who's either beating up women or walking upside down on his ceiling; loutish junkie Ivan Von Dorpe (Sam Louwyck), who takes out his deafness on his junkie girlfriend; and stiff-armed, mother-fixated homosexual Jan Verbeek (Gunter Lamoot), who keeps his deranged father chained to his bed. Dries is fascinated by his fellow Feminists, but as they rehearse for an upcoming gig, his presence only serves to bring the tensions within the band to boiling point.
Koen Mortier's superb direction hits you in the face right from the start, with a terrific opening credits sequence that involves backwards photography, violence and a lengthy backwards cycle ride, with the names of the actors scrawled on their heads with black felt-tip marker. Similarly, the ranting-on-the-ceiling sequences are extremely well done and there's some jaw-dropping prosthetics work that probably shouldn't be mentioned here.
The performances are excellent, particularly Vanhegen, who exudes the perfect air of bored arrogance as Dries. There's also strong support from Dolores Bouckaert as Dries' threesome-loving partner Lio and from Bernadette Damman as the grotesque Mother Verbeek.
To be fair, the violence (to say nothing of the copious amounts of blood and vomit) may be too strong for some, as this is easily Belgium's most violent film since Man Bites Dog.
If you can stomach the violence, Ex Drummer is as exhilarating as a punk concert and the inventive direction marks Koen Mortier out as a talent to watch. Recommended.