The self-proclaimed “Smoke Bomb Boys” have one major hobby: lighting up smoke bombs and firecrackers in any iteration they can get their hands on. Growing up is out of the question for these three 30-something men who hang out in the periphery of a small town in Nowhere, U.S.A. Without any perspective besides blowing things up, a lot of it captured in strikingly shot slow-motion sequences, the gang strays through the scenery, mostly on their own, and only sometimes happen upon other people who see them as deadbeat outcasts, while they think of themselves and their chosen companions as the coolest group they know. Only when one of the three decides that there has to be more to life and tries to choose a way inside the norm, the dynamic between these men is seriously tested.
The celebration of festive occasions like Independence Day involves the use of fireworks for (mostly) joyous reasons, to create a memorable experience with one’s family and friends. The characters in Smoke Bomb Boys on the other hand use them for more inherently destructive reasons, although it does bring them enjoyment and the bonding experience is quite similar. The combination of fire, smoke and explosions with the excitement these pyrotechnic articles generate is part of their nature and also a basis for their friendship and sense of place in life. They want to do what they love doing, even if it’s just firing stuff up, talking smack and generally not caring about what society thinks, as long as they are happy.
Smoke Bomb Boys has to be a strong contender for the short film with the most uses of the word “f*ck” in it. The protagonist’s punk attitude also comes across in the film’s direction. Its meandering narrative style and mixture of low-key settings, distinctive cynical humour and aggressive use of music, combines with a knowingly crafted execution that serves the story by perfectly capturing the punk ethos. Shot on a Canon C300 and on Super8 film with a budget of a few thousand dollars and a small crew, Gannon and his team create a unique atmosphere that’s sometimes so naturalistic that the first time I watched it I wasn’t sure in the beginning if it was a documentary with an experimental approach or a fictional short with an unconventional narrative style. The depiction of characters not normally portrayed with such empathy reminds one of the cinematic worlds of Harmony Korine, while Gannon establishes his very own style to capture this gang of outsiders and scallywags.
The film played a few festivals and had it’s online premiere on the independent movie platform NoBudge.com, where Kentucker Audley writes about Smoke Bomb Boys‘ entertaining qualities, “film as excuse to set off fireworks, what’s wrong with that?” The idea fot the short generated when the filmmaker’s production company was contacted for a short film contest to develop something “bigger in scale and production value than they are used to working with“, as Gannon states. “After a couple of brain storming sessions we had the name Smoke Bomb Boys but we didn’t know what the story was yet. One of our writers introduced the idea of it being these aging punk rock guys in the suburbs who still act like 16 year olds and we all fell in love with it. That idea resonated with us because our mental age has stunted a bit as well. We grew up in a small town with not much to do, so friendship was extremely important and causing mischief was the only fun we could really have. The idea of growing up was terrifying (and still is), so we thought it would be interesting to tell a story of a group of guys that refused to except adulthood and actually start a gang out of it.”