Mutiny is the first ski film noir. It’s dark, it’s brooding and there are as many cops here as there are skiers. Yeah, there’s some levity in spots but the slow motion urban skiing shots set to a musical score that’s sometimes more metallic, atmospheric sound design than the usual ski movie rock video edit creates a sense of unease, of trepidation. Mutiny is not a rah-rah, big guitar chorus ski movie. Stept do not build ski icons or heroes with an obvious, heavy-hand here. They don’t hype any skier in an elementary way. They keep that shit on simmer. Instead, directors Nick Martini and Cam Riley build a sense of tension with the camera: the starkly lit hospital rooms, the cold hard hits on cement and slush. And then they deliver, one after the other, a series of trials by ordeal where you see as many crashes as you do stomps – and that’s not done in a funny, ha-ha, blooper sort of style – it’s delivered like a punch in the chest. Pain is probably the most indelible of the feelings with which Mutiny leaves the viewer, but it’s not the only one. There’s the sense of detachment in the minor key piano notes under Noah Albaladejo’s precise, stylish stomps. There’s the sense of alienation in the cold night shoots where the action is against the black of night and hot breaths radiate upwards carrying the pain to the sky as a sacrifice to the urban ski gods. It all sets a cinematic tone unto itself.
Now, there are a few segments where the stomps are delivered with steeze, grace and speed, all gain, no pain sort of thing. Clayton Vila and Sean Jordan simply own that shit they hit. It’s the jaw-dropping skiing you want. Vila’s kung fu is from another dimension. His transition between walls and on to down-rails is every bit at the Bruce Lee level. Both of Jordan’s main segments a pure poetry in motion.
But then the heavy accidents come and those impressive segments become a fond memory. Charlie Owens’ segment turns on the darkness: a crash and then a hospital visit to finish out the season. It’s a reality-show, ice-cold vibe. But the showstopper in the pain and dread category is Shea Flynn’s segment. Flynn is one of America’s most under-rated urban skiers. He should get way more props in the press than he does. As I have written before, he has a muscular way of skiing that allows him to attack features with force and come out the other side with style. But in Mutiny Flynn gets pummeled. His amazing hits and bone-breaking misses are interspersed with hospital examination and surgery footage (not just visits to the dude when he’s in his recovery bed). The soundtrack is circus clown scary. It’s seriously brutal to watch. It comes across like a torture-porn segment, as if Warren Miller directed both Saw and Hostel. Martini and Riley then take it further and stir in some David Lynch, red and black lit, twisting head shot weirdness. Jesus Christ! Stop that shit. I’m getting weirded out over here.
And after that piece of theatre, co-director Cam Riley mixes back in the wow factor. Always a long rail specialist, Riley’s added a lot more height to his drops off building and walls. He packs in one beautiful move after another, seven-kink rails, the 270s on to the rail transitions, down-rails by the dozen seemingly and making it all look easy.
Like the best filmmakers, Stept are not just making movies, they’re building myths in the way they deliver their action. Get anywhere they want, get the footage and get out. They’re like a gang with a paranoid streak, always forced to look over their shoulder to see who’s coming next to try and shut them down or evict them off the property. Mutiny enhances Stept’s reputation for guerilla film-making and relentless energy for pushing their skills. When you think the guys are about to discover their mortality, they somehow manage to pull off another impossible set of tricks. Great ski movie: just don’t get me started on their preference for not wearing helmets. By Mark “The Attorney General” Quail