Ben (Brian J. Smith) is a tow truck driver, honest in a sea of liars. That quality basically makes him the idealized fantasy of proletarian Canadian values. I was so looking forward to hating 22 Chaser and its protagonist because of how idealized he is. But it’s still Brian J. Smith who played, as he would, the only honest cop in Chicago in Sense8. Smith’s banking on a lot of goodwill from that role. And he embodies Ben’s values so well. His off screen father passes down some values to him. He also tries to pass them down to his own son, Zach (Jack Fulton). “Don’t play with pigs because they like getting dirty and you’ll only get dirty”. And that, to me, is the movie’s biggest, most noticeable flaw. That even ten minutes is way too long for Ben to be clean.
22 Chaser has its moments of good old Canadian PSA values. Ben keeps asking Zach whether he’s been in a fight in school. Those scenes are rough because of their content and not in their execution. Zach tells Ben about a bully who keeps calling him white trash because Ben works too much. This negative perception of work has always been such an absurd concept to me. Although this isn’t the first time a movie character brings it up. Mildred Pierce once wondered whether her daughter looked down on her because she works for a living. Work, as part of the North American myth, is honorable, and Ben upholds that honor code. But even when he does, we see that his industry hinges on hurting people.
The audience can’t accuse Ben of greed since all he does is work to keep afloat. The extra money he wants is to buy the bike that he promises as a birthday present for Zach. The movie surrounds him, instead, with greedy characters like Elvis (Shaun Benson). Elvis’ sadism can sometimes go beyond the suspension of disbelief but I’ve worked with guys like him before. The film’s main conflict, then, is whether or not Ben’s going to end up like Elvis or stay pure. He loses either way, and there’s a feeling of ambivalence towards those two limiting choices. It introduces those choices a bit late but the tension finally heightens when it does. And we feel empathy because of the tension Ben feels. We root for him when he’s down, anticipating his rise.