By Kurly Tlapoyawa
Directed by Peter Lynch
Cast: Troy Hurtubise
You ever feel like strapping on a homemade suit of armor and seeing if you could withstand a savage assault from a pissed-off grizzly bear? Me neither. In fact, I get edgy when I come across a stray dog while out jogging. But luckily for pansies like us, a full-on grizzly bear attack is exactly what Canadian tough-guy Troy James Hurtubise has in mind. And even better, he wants us to watch while it happens. This little exercise in madness is the subject of Project Grizzly, a rarely seen gem of a documentary that is definitely worth hunting down.
Now I have to admit, the first time I watched Project Grizzly, I wasn't exactly sure if I was being duped by a cleverly staged mockumentary or watching the real deal. I mean, nobody is this freaking nuts, right? But as it became clear that what I was watching was 100-percent, bonafide reality, I became hooked--I had to see what this guy is all about. Clocking in at just over an hour in length, Project Grizzly follows the high-strung Canadian (and self-described “close-quarter bear researcher”) as he tries to make his dream of wrestling a grizzly come true.
You see, when Troy was a younger man, he encountered a rather large grizzly bear while hiking in the Canadian wilderness. The confrontation became physical and, as Troy puts it, “For whatever reason, that bear didn't kill me, and I've been on its trail ever since.” The grizzly, which Troy has affectionately dubbed “Old Man,” plays Moby Dick to Troy's hyperactive Captain Ahab.
As a result of his first encounter, Troy is convinced that he will one day die at the claws of a grizzly bear. And so begins Troy's obsession to get up close and personal with one of the creatures to see exactly what makes them tick.
Inspired by Peter Weller's look in Robocop, Troy designs a series of protective “bear-proof suits” that will allow him to carry out his research. Each design is more sturdy and spaceman-like than the previous, finally culminating in the hulking Ursus Mark VI.
Through a collection of old home video footage, we see Troy put himself and his various suits through an insane sequence of field tests. Troy has gigantic logs rammed into his body, is beaten with two by fours and even gets tossed off a cliff. Crazy or not, this guy is packing a serious set of balls. Finally, Troy feels his suit is up to the task and sets off with his buddies into the wilderness to track down the Old Man.
Unfortunately, the film's ending is pretty anticlimactic. Troy spends a couple of weeks in the wilderness with his “research team” and pretty much comes up empty-handed. You can't help but feel irritated at the lack of preparedness Troy displays on what is supposedly his life's obsession. Come on, Troy, you mean to tell me that after years of planning and development, you never thought to design a suit that you could walk around in on rugged terrain? And at an imposing seven-
But still, Troy is an interesting guy, and his story is as old as the ages: man's neverending obsession to get himelf killed when he should know better. When Troy goes into detail regarding his first encounter with the Old Man, you realize just how lucky he is to be alive. But after seeing the unfortunate demise of Timothy Treadwell in Werner Herzog's similarly themed Grizzly Man, you can't help but wonder if ol' Troy is setting himself up for the same fate. You can be sure of one thing, though: Troy is gonna go out well-dressed and swinging.
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