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Ex Drummer: A Battle of the Bands With Comic Grotesques

It has taken since 2007 for Koen Mortier’s debut feature to sully the walls of a New York theater for a full week, and it’s not hard to see why. The flashy adaptation of the book by aging Belgian provocateur Herman Brusselmans is as systematically offensive and boisterously vulgar as its degenerate punk protagonists. Or at least that’s the aim: From the moment three self-proclaimed Ostend outcasts recruit Dries, a too-cool famous author, to form a band, the movie falls over itself to present one comic grotesque after another—a murderous lead singer, two different portraits in familial squalor and hate, a monstrously endowed competitor, even mocking words about the country’s dead King Baudouin. The band’s antics and mutual abuse comprise the story such as it is, culminating in a battle of the bands (a cliché just like the individualized quirks of these misfits). While the earthy humor and sexual disaster partake of a recognizable strain of Belgian comedy (on comparatively genteel display in, say, The Misfortunates), Mortier spikes the film with feature-length-video gimmickry and the nihilism of above-it-all godplayer Dries. Belgian punk band Millionaire supplies the music of the film’s quartet (dubbed “The Feminists”) on a soundtrack that includes Mogwai and, inevitably, “Mongoloid.”

 
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