22 Chaser is an ‘urban western’ staged in Toronto’s underbelly

22 Chaser is an ‘urban western’ staged in Toronto’s underbelly

BYLINE: Joel Dryden/The Mutt

Whether it be an office tower or old-of-control train, hardened cop or reluctant ex-military officer, many thrillers lean hard on familiar settings and characters, opting to get to the action quick and deal with character-building later. But 22 Chaser, the directorial debut from Rafal Sokolowski, aims for a unique target – setting its central conflict in the world of tow truck “chasers” and developing the film’s conflict as a complement to its characters.

“I have heard so many opinions (of the film) like, ‘I had no idea about this subculture, about this world, and I will never, ever look at tow truck drivers in the same way,’” Sokolowski said. “For myself, now, my eyes go – I see them everywhere. They were really tucked away. Now, I’m sensitive to this, so I see them and I say, ‘I know what you’re doing.’”

“Chasers” refer to those tow truck drivers that race to the scenes of accidents, looking to offer services or refer those involved in accidents to repair shops, often getting confused or distressed individuals to agree to inflated prices. Sokolowski said that in order to understand the subculture properly, he spent time with chasers near Toronto, sitting with them in their trucks and waiting for accidents to happen.

“There is an accident, and then it becomes really dynamic and very traumatic. You arrive on the scene of the accident and you never know what you are going to encounter,” he said. “You’ll encounter broken cars and broken people. Amidst the panic and the trauma and blood and very often death, there are these people who negotiate their jobs, trying to make a buck by pulling a wreck out of that.”

Produced at the Canadian Film Centre, 22 Chaser follows Ben (Brian J. Smith), a man from a small town working long hours as a tow truck driver to support his family. But when he is pulled into the world of tow truck chasers, he finds himself facing up against some major moral challenges.

“We see someone who gets corrupted and kind of sells himself. It’s upsetting, but I’ve always found this really interesting thematically. In order to get ahead, you kind of need to sell yourself,” Sokolowski said. “I found it fascinating that dreamers, they need to learn how to be assholes to move ahead. That’s the reality of the modern world. I’m generalizing, obviously, but I see a lot of examples of that.”

Though Sokolowski sought to develop a consistent sense of tension throughout 22 Chaser, he also wanted to ensure the world he had witnessed first-hand was depicted authentically on-screen.

“With that excitement comes responsibility. This is the first film that portrays this subculture,” he said. “I want to make sure we’re not exploiting this freaky thing – it’s rooted in reality.”

The film is set to open July 6 in Toronto before moving on to a Video on Demand release. Sokolowski said he hoped moviegoers would come out to see a “character-driven story set in this unique, fascinating world.”

“We don’t know about (this world) because it hides in the underbelly of our own Toronto. That’s the super exciting thing – it’s very much a Toronto film,” he said. “It’s not this American big urban centre. No, it’s Toronto, we’re shooting Toronto. I’m actually super thrilled how Toronto came out in this film. It’s beautiful and ugly, it’s punk rock, it’s western and slick, but also has a very filthy underbelly.”

22 Chaser plays at Imagine Cinemas Carlton starting July 6. For more information, click here.

PHOTO CREDIT: 22 Chaser, directed by Rafal Sokolowski, portrays the seedy underbelly of Toronto and the tow truck “chasers” that operate there. Photo courtesy levelFILM 22 Chaser, directed by Rafal Sokolowski, portrays the seedy underbelly of Toronto and the tow truck “chasers” that operate there. Photo courtesy levelFILM

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