Director – Lowell Dean, Screenplay – Justin Ludwig & T.R. McCauley, Story – T.R. McCauley, Producers – Trinni Franke & Hugh Patterson, Photography – Michael Jari Davidson, Music – Todd Bryanton & Factor Chandelier, Visual Effects Supervisor – Trevor Corrigan, Special Effects Supervisor – Casey Markus, Makeup Effects – Leah Brock, Production Design – Emersen Ziffle. Production Company – Raven Banner/Telefilm Canada/Creative Saskatchewan/Echolands Creative Group/Super Channel.
Leo Fafard (Jesse Campbell), Marshall Williams (Deacon Campbell), Natalie Krill (North), Jay Reso (Kurtis), Jonathan Cherry (Laszlo), Amy Matysio (Spanner), Fei Ren (Guan-Yin), Tinsel Korey (Eagle), Daniel Maslany (Owl), Sheldon Bergstrom (Brezhnev), Ryland Alexander (Soldier Hostage)
In the future, much of North America has become part of the Sino-Gazam Mining Hyperstructure, nicknamed The Supergrid, which is under mob control. The wastelands of the Grid are overrun by Jacks, bandits who are infected with the lethal Black Lung contamination. In the city, Deacon Campbell is forced by the mob head Laszlo to make a run across the Grid. With his girlfriend killed on the last run, Deacon’s only hope to make it is to appeal to his brother Jesse, who has retired from the job, to be his co-driver. Jesse grudgingly agrees to make the run, using an armoured truck powered by a thorium cell that he has built. They set out, fighting off bandits and warlords, to cross the border into Canada and retrieve the package. However, when the package turns out to be a cure to Black Lung, the brothers realise it is too important to allow control of it to fall into the mob’s hands, but this has them hunted on all sides.
Supergrid was the fifth film for Canadian director Lowell Dean. Dean first appeared with the non-genre I Heart Regina (2010) and then entered genre material with the zombie film 13 Eerie (2013) and had a modest success with the werewolf comedy WolfCop (2014), which he followed with a sequel Another WolfCop (2017). Supergrid features a number of Dean’s regulars – the Wolfcop himself Leo Fafard plays the lead role, while other actors from the series also make appearances – Amy Matysio as a mechanic and Jonathan Cherry as the crime boss Laszlo.
The opening of the film details a future world that includes territories run by the mob, mining facilities that flaunt all environmental considerations, a lawless wasteland where bandits roam and any attempt to traverse the area is considered a lethal pursuit, as well a plague that infects much of the population. It seems strong and potentially intriguing world-building.
However, not long after Supergrid starts, it seems like what we are in the midst of no more than a 1980s Post-Holocaust Film film, the genre that was patented by Mad Max 2 (1981) and copied by numerous B-budget imitators. The world here has not exactly collapsed following an apocalypse, it is more like the current world having run down into a fragmented future – more the pockets of civilisation with fraying edges we had in Mad Max (1979) – but there seems little difference beyond that. We still have a series of well-worn plot tropes involving a desperate run across a lawless wasteland inhabited by infected as opposed to mutant crazies; the customised armoured vehicle; pursuit by the warlords and crazies of the wasteland; the small peaceful community that provides shelter to the heroes and so on.
The disappointment is that the detailed future setting in the opening in actuality proves of little relevance, as all the film does is fall back on these well-worn tropes. There is slightly more effort with the characters and a better calibre of actors than the usual Mad Max copy. And it is nice seeing a film that integrates this with the use of the First Nations community too.
The other disappointment is that Supergrid is an Action Film with hardly anything in the way of action scenes. There is one road chase sequence about three-quarters of the way through and a shootout climax but they make the rest of the film seem lacking by comparison. Nor does the insertion of clearly digital explosions in favour of the real thing make the film look anything other than cheap. The world of the Supergrid doesn’t even look that rundown – the fields still manage to seem freshly sewn and, while there are numerous cracks that appear in the road due to tremors, none of the roads are overgrown or undriveable.