Billy Trigger: The Hammer drops on Montreal

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John Fallon and Fred Williamson. Photo courtesy of Billy Trigger

It’s Friday night in Griffintown, next to the canal on an otherwise barren street, and Fred “The Hammer” Williamson has noticed I’m a little nervous.

Williamson, now 74, has played in two Super Bowls, earned a PhD in architecture and produced, directed and acted in over 110 films. His larger-than-life personality matches someone with such a resumé, sporting a suave wardrobe and forever chomping on a cigar, with a natural ability to refer to himself in the third person. While taking pictures with some of the cast and crew of his latest film, Billy Trigger, he grabs my shoulder and pulls me into the shot. Roger Ebert once accurately described him as “everybody’s buddy.”

Directed by Montreal genre fiend Christian Viel, Trigger was written by local internet scribe John Fallon, otherwise known for his horror movie reviews on Arrow in the Head (now incorporated into joblo.com). It centres on the titular hitman (played by Fallon), who runs afoul of mob heavy Pops (Williamson) after being asked to look after Pops’ mistress.

Fallon’s horror movie reviews are stylistically chock-full of male-centric bravado — less critical and more in line with a guy who just wants Jack Daniels and, as he’s written in the past, a “good flick.” His personality and his work on Trigger fit perfectly in line.

“Action has always been my first love. You know, then I started writing about horror and people pigeonholed me for that. And I love horror, too,” says Fallon.

Though the gritty nature of Trigger hearkens back to gritty low-budget action films of the 1970s, both Fallon and Williamson insist it’s not a throwback, but the real thing. “We have a junkyard chase scene — you never see that in movies anymore,” Fallon points out.

“Gritty throwbacks are bullshit,” says Williamson. “What Tarantino does with the negative scratches,” he continues, referring mostly to his work on Grindhouse, “it’s just bullshit.” He adds that there was no way that would have gone over well in the 70s.

MACHO MIND-MELD

Despite his bravado personality, there is an earnest humility behind Williamson. “I am what I am,” he says. In a way, Fallon and Williamson’s collaboration feels almost organic — both passionately and enthusiastically embrace their machismo.

“I’ve never worked with someone with that breadth of work,” says Fallon, describing the star as “something of an icon — you don’t get that every day.”

In keeping with the 1970s aesthetic, all of the stunts are performed by the actors, coordinated by producer and fellow actor Andy Bradshaw. Fallon, a regular boxer, trained with Bradshaw. “All the action scenes are grounded in reality,” says Fallon.

The fight scenes mix and match styles. “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast,” says Bradshaw, adding of Williamson that “you just can’t get past this guy.”

Originally more familiar with Williamson’s later work with Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, Fallon watched his classic gangster film Black Caesar prior to filming. Originally, Pops was a white Irish gangster. “Then I saw Black Caesar and was like, ‘I get it.'”

He re-worked the character with Williamson in mind. “Is Hammer a badass? Is Pops a badass?” muses Williamson. He saw Pops as a “What if [Black Caesar] had grown into an older man, and what’d he turn into?”

Williamson and Fallon spoke at length about why no one makes action films like this anymore.

“People in Hollywood,” posits Williamson, aren’t “smart enough” to do it. “You can’t speak to movie people on an intelligent level.” What made 70s films great, in his opinion, “is they were clear cut. There was a good guy and a bad guy. The good guys dressed in white and the bad guys dressed in black.”

Fallon plans to continue to make films, his next project intended to be an action-horror film. “I’m going to do what I want or die trying.”

That’s not far away from Williamson’s attitude. “You can’t beat me, I have to win all my fights and I always get the girl,” he quips. “The only way to make sure that happened was to make my own.” ■

 

Read more about the film and the shoot on the officialBilly Trigger site.

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