Down Under – BFI LFF – Review

 

From the land that has brought cult comedy classics such as The Castle, Muriel’s Wedding, Kenny, writer director and actor Abe Forsythe makes his mark with the seemingly Four Lions Inspired, Down Under. Set in 2005 in the immediate aftermath of the Cronulla riots in Sydney after rising tension between Lebanese and white youth residents. Two opposing gangs gear up and take their wheels to a collision to defend their rights of territory.

Regular white-trash Jason bullies his weed obsessed friend Shit’Stick, who is on a more peaceful and rational plain to Jason, into giving him his car so they can all defend their beach from the ‘Lebs’. The humble Shit’Stick is more interested in teaching his visiting cousin Evan how to drive and watch Lord Of The Rings. At the same time, wannabe gangster Nick coerces his old friend Hassim who is more concerned about his exams into seeking revenge as Hassim’s brother has gone missing after the riots from the day before. Both gang’s have to get past their infighting if they’re going to actually make it to their destination. Forsythe gives fairly equal parity in ridiculing the futility of each group’s violent quests and ideals for self-righteousness. The satire is mainly aimed at the individuals of the gang members rather than a look at wider society and culture. On either side of the gangs, there are members who are uninterested in the call for violence but represent the hysteria of being dragged in.

The film is guilty of overkill and at times feels like it is guilty of imitating rather than acting upon comedic know how, particularly in its use of slow-mo shots. There are plenty of laughs to be had but Forsythe is too keen for there one to be around every corner, which dilutes its comedic aims. Characters become a little clichéd and the multitude of them means there is little in terms of character focus or development. Scenarios and plot become a little predictable and it lacks gilt edge execution to conclude a satisfying climax. Down Under is a film containing hits and misses in equal measure, but appears to be shy of reaching cult status. Nevertheless, a watchable ninety minutes that makes its point.

★★★

Chris Aitken

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