Another week, another few hours lost in the world of cinema, waking up in the morning on the sidewalk, unable to speak the language.
Romper Stomper (1992)
With the Rabbits into the Grand Final this week, where better to start than with a trip into the personal history of club owner, Russell Crowe.
Before rising to fame through South Park’s ‘Fightin Round the World’, Crowe was most definitely ‘Fightin in Australia’ as the lovable* skinhead Hando, who, along with best mate Davey, goes around beating the shit out of Asians because ‘this is our country’.
Of course, karma is a bitch, and as well as stealing our jobs and our pubs, the Asians go on to steal our mantle of ‘champions of gang street warfare’ by absolutely brutalising and killing some skinheads. There is a LARGE amount of brutality in the first half of this movie and it’s understandable why there was controversy at the time.
Right then, at that moment, you’re poised for what could be a poignant moment of insight into the Australian psyche (lets face it, the events of the last few weeks and years, the words of the UN, Cronulla – it’s silly to say that all Australians are racist, but it’s also silly to say racism hasn’t played a significant part in our culture).
It raises a lot of questions – but does it bother to answer them? Perhaps, maybe if I watched it a few more times, but unfortunately for the film I’m not going to.
Instead the second half focuses on this strange girl with a multitude of severe psychological… problems, and the way she plays Hando and Davey off against each other. The film ends with some craziness on the beach – and while I certainly liked the way the credits roll over the last thing Hando sees, I can’t help but feel the ending also missed a chance to say a bit more.
Throughout the film I kept thinking I knew the guy that played Davey from somewhere. I didn’t. Turns out the actor was a heroin addict who killed himself at Newtown Train Station before the film came out. Crazy.
Intense? Sure! An Australian film you really should watch? Perhaps. Particularly good? Not really 5/10
Ethan Hawke plays an author (Why is it ALWAYS a fucking author? I mean, I know Stephen King liked to use a writer as his main character, because he WAS a writer, but he did it to death.) Anyway, said writer moves his family into a house because he’s investigating some murders in the area. He’s already had one hit and the pressures on for another one – his masterpiece. Blah blah blah.
Spooky things happen, he finds a box of 8mm films in the attic. Naturally he watches them, seeing visual documentation of grisly murder after grisly murder. I’ll be completely honest, despite this, it was still moving along well enough to keep me intrigued. Who put the videos there? His kid with night terrors starts freaking out even more, the ways the people die are pretty intense, etc.
It feels like that was about all the writers had, too. They got this far and though “holy shit, we’d better write the rest of the movie!” It was almost EXACTLY what happened to Lost at around the Season 4 mark.
Instead of answering the questions they raise and continuing the psychological thrills, what follows at the end is about 50 minutes of the producers trying to make you jump. I’ll admit, the very first one made me poke a wee turtle head, but after that you’re on your toes and the efforts seem so laboured.
There’s a chance for redemption in the ‘twist’ of an ending but even that is pretty damn predictable. The final scene is like a music video, and it’s appalling. As they desperately try one more time to make you jump before the credits roll, you can’t help lamenting where the interesting movie went. It was doing so (comparatively) well… 4/10
Short Circuit (1986)
We weren’t really a family that had many movies we OWNED on VHS. We usually taped off the TV, and spent our holidays raiding the video stores. One of the few movies we did have, though, was Short Circuit. It was with a sense of child-like anticipation that I got my hands on this movie, ready to watch it for the first time since before I was 10.
It’s about a robot who, after some kind of electrical problem, forgets he’s a war machine and instead goes chasing butterflies. With the help of a trusty human companion (playing ANNOYINGLY by Ally Sheedy) he goes on a journey of self-discovery and blah blah blah. It’s got Steve Guttenberg in it, too, so you know it’s… 80’s.
Watching it for the first time since being incredibly young, you notice a few things that you never would have – the heavy anti-war themes, the less-heavy-but-still-there vegetarianism themes, just how FUCKING ANNOYING Ally Sheedy is in this film, and presumably was throughout the rest of her career, and most importantly, that Guttenberg’s Indian lab assistant is a hilarious horn-dog with an accent that seems to have single-handedly served as the inspiration for Apu on The Simpsons. Seriously, this movie came out 3 years before the Simpsons made their debut. If you watch both, compare the voices. It’s uncanny. Not only that, after he is asked to leave the van in a particular scene, you never see him again – not even at the end. Where did he go? He was the best human character!
Another thing you completely forget is just how absolutely scarring the ending is. I didn’t remember the end whatsoever until about 10 seconds before it happened (or so I thought), and when you see the bad guys blow the robot up you just sit there, mouth gaping, trying not to let anyone see you fight the tears (Crying? Fuck off, it’s onions). Then, just as Gutes (as I like to call him) and Ally Sheedy drive off and start coming to terms with the loss of Number 5, BOOM! He’s not dead.
I’m sure as a kid it made me rejoice but this time I was left thinking “how could you do that, you c*nts. Getting me all upset for nothing. Crying? I told you, it’s onions, now fuck off!”
Yes, it’s pretty stupid. Yes, the jokes are lame. Yes, the bad guy has all the menace of Hermes Endarkis from Ship to Shore (congratulations if you got that). Essentially, it’s Pinocchio with a robot and guns, but the way you feel at the end makes you realise that maybe you did give a shit about the twerpy robot, even if it was just a little.
It’s a great family film, and one day my kids will see it and tell me it’s incredibly dated rubbish.Then perhaps one day, when they’re 29, they’ll watch it again for the first time in nearly 20 years and wonder why the hell I ever showed it to them, but then they’ll show it to their kids. Such is the circle of life. Sunrise, sunset 7/10