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An important message gets lost in a misguided film
The 2005 Cronulla Race Riots marked down a dark time in Australian history where years' worth of racially infused tension boiled to a tipping point that saw vicious acts of violence and mob mentality take over the streets of Sydney and put the nation on a knifes edge.
Since then the country has been relatively quiet in comparison to this precariously placed moment but the day is still fresh in many people's minds and no doubt lays dormant in the ever growing city of Sydney, a city whose proud heritage of diverse cultures seems put a powder keg ready to explode at any given moment.
Looking to maximise this event for a feature film that mixes uneasy comedy with wannabe social commentary, director Abe Forsythe alongside his producing partner Greg Mclean (the Wolf Creek helmer whose horror debut gets a run here in the film) focus on the day after the race riots in which equally rag-tag groups of Ned Kelly loving locals and Muslim/Australians go out on patrol looking to enact revenge on any possible minorities that may just show their face on the streets.
Down Under's premise is an intriguing one but Forsythe struggles to find the right status quo as his film's comedy feels forced and rather tired and outdated, yeah we get it, some ethnicities enjoy a good burnout more than others or a nice chicken kebab, whilst the films messages are blurred around some rather amateurish direction and a bunch of characters that all feel like caricatures rather than living breathing inhabitants of this time and place.
A key for a film of this ilk, with a large array of comical and larger than life creations, like a stoner Blockbuster video clerk, a constantly rapping Muslim or in perhaps the films strangest scene an eyeliner wearing drug dealer, is to make the smallest character through to the most prominent interesting and likable, the Coen Brothers do this incredibly well, but Forsythe, Mclean and the ensembles actors struggle to make the material work.
Filled with potential and promise, Down Under is a frustrating piece of work on a topic that deserves to be delved into more and while it's great to see a local filmmaker have a decent crack at shining a light on the real Australia, this uneven experience works neither as important social commentary or a comedy and a particularly misguided finale ruins any chance the film had to end with a bang.
1 ½ Blockbuster stores out of 5
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