Aleks in Chains: A Tale of Redemption and Choice

Redemption has long been a theme in film. It is at the heart of many morality tales, and the best story arcs contain characters that often undergo a positive change. In Chained, the new film from writer-director Titus Heckel, morality and redemption take centre stage.

The cat-and-mouse chess match stars Marlon Kazadi as Taylor, a bullied 13 year old with an emotionally tough father and a passion for gardening. Adrian Holmes co-stars as the teen’s cop dad Pete and Vancouver legend Aleks Paunovic is his typical self as a complicated brute criminal. On the run from school bullies, Taylor stumbles into an abandoned warehouse, where he comes across Paunovic’s Jim, a man in shackles who may or may not have a killed a man in a case that is connected to Taylor’s dad.

Although is hard to like any of the three lead characters – their actions don’t necessarily bemoan sympathy – the actors themselves turn in great performances. Kazadi is great as the angry teenager; his role and style reminiscent of Jahi Di’allo Winston, the young star of the great but gone-to-soon Netflix Show Everything Sucks. Kazadi has many scenes with Paunovic and holds his own emotionally, finding just the right balance of subtlety, anger and manipulation. Paunovic – a master of brute force – shows his softer side during some tender moments between criminal and kid, with the two creating a highly dysfunctional relationship and Paunovic’s Jim even engaging in a game of battleship and giving the young horticulturaist advice on kissing his crush Nora.

Speaking of Nora, the actress who plays the role of the girlfriend, Leia Madu, might just lowkey be the best performance of the movie. She is certainly the most likeable character in the movie and takes great effort not to be merely a sidepiece, as characters have been in the past. Her emotional arc is realistic, she doesn’t try and do too much; she just wants to be a normal teenager – Nora and Taylor are only 13 after all. She is not simply the confused girlfriend, but causes significant decisions and actions to be taken by the characters.

Although, there are some problems with the script – namely that it never really answers “why”, as well as some questionable tonal shifts and music choices, overall Heckel was able to create a thought-provking experiment on the power of choice and what happens when the drive to succeed combined with toxic masculinity is taken to harrowing extremes. That and Aleks Paunovic still kicks ass.

Chained recently premiered at the Vancouver International Film Festival

  • Dan McPeake


Lots of exciting guests coming up on Endeavours:

July 15 – Director Jared Cohn

July 17 – Actress & writer Precious Chong

Other upcoming guests include musician Hawksley Workman, philosopher Francesca Ferrando, actress Magda Apanowicz, actress-director Romola Garai, author Preston Lautenberg and author Andrew Pyper

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Image courtesy of Erika Tooker PR.

“You’re a young one, why are you here?” That was the question the increasingly-drunk lady behind me asked me midway through a Midge Ure concert Friday night. In many respects, it was a fair question; I was a millennial amongst a sea of Gen X-ers and boomers. Then again, why can’t younger people be musically cultured? To be fair though, I look anywhere from five to ten years younger than I actually am. The truth is, I was long familiar with Midge Ure – his stage name being a phonetic reversal of Jim – and a vague knowledge of Ultravox and Thin Lizzy, and knew that he was a co-founder of Live Aid, but I would have been hard pressed to name an actual song of his.

The show in question was different then most I have attended in the past. The venue – Hugh’s Room Live – finds that delicate balance between classy and pretentious – and on this night, played host to a solo acoustic show from Midge, interspersed with an audience Q&A. I had been to exactly one of these before – Randy Bachman in Vancouver – that was a bit more raucous, mainly because of the crowd and venue. I was a little unsure of the show at first; not all aging rockers have maintained their voices 40 years into a career, and there were times where I could sense Ure straining a little bit. With his typical self-deprecating, dark Glaswegian humour, a Brexit joke and reference to Doctor Who, Ure quickly won me over.

The audience “questions” largely consisted of song requests (hello “Vienna” and “Dancing With Tears in My Eyes”, which Ure finally admitted may be a love song), to Thin Lizzy Memories, and his favourite ever collaboration – it’s Kate Bush. Inevitably, Live Aid was brought up and, after a bit of prodding, Ure relented and crooned “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”. While that means he technically played a Christmas song in January, I’ll give him a pass this time around. 

While there were other great moments – his memories of Visage – his rendition of “Fade To Grey” which had most of the audience in unison during the chorus, stands out as a particular highlight for its simple yet powerful beauty. It had an almost anthemic quality to it. What I appreciated most about Ure, was that he didn’t come with a prepared set-list; he chose what to play based on the audiences desires and feedback. That’s how I knew it was entirely an exercise in vanity, and he truly was doing it for the fans.

In his memoir, Bruce Springsteen noted that if was going to become a true rockstar, it would be because of songwriting rather than his voice or guitar skills. I feel the same way about Midge Ure. His voice, while certainly not terrible, is not what makes Ure memorable. As I never got to see him during his new wave or rock days, it is difficult to musicianship on an acoustic instrument from the back of a crowded jazz club. I have to hand to him though, he played solo after his multi-instrumentalist back-up musician pulled out hours before they were scheduled to leave the U.K. due to illness. At the end of the day, it was the way he used his words to navigate a story and re-capture the joy so many of us seek. In a world dominated by derision and decision, it felt nice to be united, however briefly, with the lovely group of people I was surrounded by. Except for you drunk lady, except. Music often brings strangers together; Midge Ure certainly did that. – DM

Episode 198 – Adam Zucker

Adam Zucker has worked mainly as an editor, but also as a cinematographer, writer, producer, and director. His previous directorial efforts include Greensboro: Closer to the Truth and The Return. His third feature documentary is American Muslim, which follows Muslim community members, leaders, and activists in Zucker’s hometown of New York City and surmises what it means to be Muslim in America in the age of Trump. The film is screening as part of Cinematters: The NY Social Justice Film Festival which runs from January 16-20.

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