Al Shaw's life revolves around motor racing and his back country junkyard, the "Smash Palace". His French wife, Jacqui, doesn't appreciate the lack of attention due to Al's obsession with ...
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Al Shaw's life revolves around motor racing and his back country junkyard, the "Smash Palace". His French wife, Jacqui, doesn't appreciate the lack of attention due to Al's obsession with cars. When Al finds her in the arms of another man, he takes his daughter, Georgie and heads for the bush, desperately hoping to hold on to the only family he has left.Written by
An excellent central performance by Bruno Lawrence.
Roger Donaldson wrote, produced, and directed this combination of character study, melodrama, and thriller. Kiwi icon Bruno Lawrence stars as Al Shaw, a former pro racer who now operates a rural junkyard (the "Smash Palace" of the title). He spends so much time tinkering with vehicles that he has little time left for his wife Jacqui (Anna Maria Monticelli). Feeling unloved, she commences an affair with his best friend Ray (Keith Aberdein), a police officer, and takes their daughter Georgie (Greer Robson-Kirk) with her. He does not appreciate this turn of events, to put it mildly, setting in motion the ugliness that will soon follow.
Lawrence is brilliant in a largely unsympathetic role. Although the story eventually turns somewhat conventional as he takes it on the lam, he still provides enough "glue" to hold everything together. Monticelli is fine as the frustrated wife, and has plenty of her own effective moments. Young Robson-Kirk is adorable, and the film is at its best when focusing on the relationship between father and daughter. Aberdein, and Desmond Kelly as friend / employee Tiny, round out the superb main cast.
Although he doesn't invite a lot of sympathy (at least for the balance of the picture), Al is NOT one-dimensional: he genuinely loves his little girl, and it's understandable that he couldn't abide the thought of possibly not seeing her again. Then again, the three main adult characters are presented as real, flawed human beings who are not in the right all the time. The one character you really feel sorry for is the child, who you know is going to have some traumatic memories to last her a lifetime.
The film is deliberately paced for a while, eventually segueing into a more action-packed finale. (It does also have some well-executed racing sequences, as Al still participates in races whenever possible.)
Atmospheric, and grimly compelling, "Smash Palace" devastatingly illustrates what happens for children when their parents are irrational.
This third feature for Donaldson helped get him noticed by Hollywood, leading to his respectable American feature film career.
Eight out of 10.
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