Frites, beer, Soulwax—Belgium has given us so, so much. Let's just leave Ex Drummer off that list. Based on the novel by apparently notorious Belgian author Herman Brusselmans, Ex Drummer wants desperately to shock but manages to provoke only dull disgust.
Dries (Dries Van Hegen) is a successful, self-styled bad-boy writer (a stand-in for Brusselmans, whose works are semiautobiographical). He lives in a posh seaside condo and has threesomes with his attractive young girlfriend. He rides a motorcycle, wears a leather jacket, smokes, and frequently walks in super-cool slow motion.
A trio of "handicapped" losers ask Dries to play drums with them in an upcoming battle of the bands. They need Dries's fame, and though he regards them with obvious contempt, he wants the story that wallowing in their squalor will provide. He accepts. What follows is less Spinal Tap than it is Gummo (no offense to Gummo).
The film is bleak, gory, and violent. But more than that, it's just brutally, unrelentingly misogynistic (so much so that its casual homophobia and racism seem almost insignificant by comparison). The band's lisping singer beats, rapes, and murders women; their deaf junkie guitarist neglects his wife and, fatally, his daughter; the bassist's arm locked stiff one day because his mother caught him masturbating (although his homosexuality is suggested as a more significant handicap). Dries names the band the Feminists, reasoning that "four handicapped men are as good as four feminist bitches." (Dries's handicap is his supposed inability to play drums, not his moral and emotional bankruptcy.)
A rival band's frontman, Big Dick, makes his wife show Dries her vagina, which he affectionately calls her "exploded rat" and which his namesake member has stretched so wide that he and Dries can stand in it like a hallway. The Feminists' guitarist's wife introduces herself to Dries by announcing that her vagina stinks of rotten fish. When not parading their mutilated/diseased genitals around, the women in this film are mostly reduced to fetching beers and having sex; the bassist's mother also gets to domineer him and his father, who is forcibly kept confined to his bed.
The vagina-as-hallway scene does highlight the film's one strength, which is its sense of style and visual aesthetic, a kind of flashily rendered filth that recalls Trainspotting, though without anything like that film's fun or wit. First-time feature-length director Koen Mortier's next film is set to be an adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk's novel Haunted, a project in which his flair for macho grotesquerie should serve him, if not his audiences, well.