The sixth-billed actor from Smoke Signals returns 25 years later

Film | Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Hey, Viktor!
In theatres
Friday 15
3 out of 5

A little over a quarter century ago, Smoke Signals took theatres (well, art house theatres) by storm. The dramedy was written, produced and directed by Native Americans, and starred notable Indigenous performers Adam Beach, Gary Farmer, Michael Greyeyes and Tantoo Cardinal (recently seen in Killers of the Flower Moon.)

Smoke Signals also featured a 12-year-old actor named Cody Lightning as a younger version of Beach’s character Victor Joseph. While most of the cast would go on to become household names, Lightning developed a career taking on supporting roles, most notably in Rian Johnson’s Brick.

The Cody Lightning of the mockumentary Hey, Viktor! isn’t as well-adjusted as his real-life counterpart. In Hey, Viktor! Lightning’s acting career is close to non-existent. His only starring roles are in gay porn and pro-fracking ads.

Despite his dire situation, Lightning is as entitled as they come and has no qualms about burning bridges.

He might be deluded, but Lightning realizes he needs a hit or he’ll fade into oblivion. Like many actors before him, he takes matters in his own hands and writes a movie for himself to star in: a sequel to Smoke Signals. He doesn’t have the rights (let alone any funding), isn’t on speaking terms with the rest of the cast, and his idea doesn’t even make sense since the adult version of his character has already been played by Adam Beach. Details, really.

Hey, Viktor! is often hilarious. Lightning’s go-for-broke performance is well supported by Hanna Cheesman as his long-suffering agent Kate, and the reliably funny Conway Kootenay (Guitar Lessons). It features a smash cut for the ages, a reversal of fortune perfectly realized. The concept is thoroughly developed and almost makes it to the end without falling into cliché (so close!). Unfortunately, the film also has the maddening habit of going for the lowest hanging fruit: drunken shenanigans, slapstick and gratuitous nudity.

Hey, Viktor! could have been meaningful and memorable, but it settles for funny. That’s not nothing, though.