In First Round Down, former hometown hockey hero/hitman/pizza delivery boy Tim Tucker (Dylan Bruce) finds himself back home to take care of his kid brother after his parents’ passing. He’s in a rut delivering pizzas and being unable to emerge from the shadow of his former glories, but all this begins to change the day he makes a delivery to his old flame Kelly (Rachel Wilson). Between getting reacquainted with his former coach (aka Kelly’s dad) leading up to the league’s reunion game and festivities, pining for his former girlfriend (much to the displeasure of her current fiancée), and the re-emergence of his former boss from the mob, things are about to get interesting for Tim and everyone around him.
While First Round Down does present itself as blatantly Canadian, what’s front and centre is actually its retro street style even more so than its Cannuck references. From production design aesthetics to lighting techniques aimed at recreating ’60s and ’70s photography, the result is a familiar setting that we can recognize all through our great nation, where many towns and cities exist that are largely untouched or unchanged since the ’70s. What’s impressive is the Butler Brothers and team’s ability to permeate this look and feel to all aspects of the film.
There are also creative and varied camera techniques employed in this film. While many medium shots keep us connected to the characters while still allowing us to take in nuances of the settings, high and low angles give us eye-catching perspectives, and finally a peppering of handhelds inform the ’70s street style. Also included is a uniquely composed shot with characters moving in front of a wide mirror that gives off an infinity-effect that’s eye-catching but not carnivalesque.
The script contains a fair amount of well-written humour, including supporting roles that you wind up liking quite a bit despite some blatant character flaws. The main characters are a little less compelling at times, and this writer has some hesitations about the chemistry between the two leads, but their motivations are obvious and they carry the plot through to the end. If anything, there was definitely room for the Butler Brothers to be more risqué or elaborate with their story, as their meticulously created world on screen would certainly have allowed for it.
Overall First Round Down makes for an enjoyable film for Canadian viewers. It even features a solid soundtrack featuring Canadian talent such as Stompin’ Tom Conners, Sloan, etc. This is a hockey comeback story that you don’t need to know anything about hockey to enjoy.