The sad truth is that Australian movies are shot on a budget that is like an oily rag compared to the petrol guzzlers of even middle of the road Hollywood productions – the big studios spend more on PR than local filmmakers can muster for cast and crew.
The results are obvious at first glance – and unfortunately first glance wins the box office.
The imported feature is louder and glossier and studded with stars, whereas our efforts are treated as black sheep. The great shame of it is that a really terrific movie such as Rise of the Underdog struggles (usually unsuccessfully) for a general release while the mob knock each other out of the way to see Liam Neeson or Denzel Washington or any other production-line hero killing people by various graphic means.
Writer/director Mack Lindon’s film is based on personal experience. Will (Nathan Wilson) goes from afternoon barbie to pub to chemically-ratted clubbing. The next day he is arrested by the police and accused of raping the girl whom he took home.
It’s all clearly and economically shown in the opening sequence, but without revealing what exactly happened.
Will is found guilty and sentenced to six years’ imprisonment and the bulk of the story deals with how, while awaiting an appeal, he copes with jail and forges a mutually rewarding and abiding friendship with Jimmy (Martin Sacks in a fabulous performance), a tattooed tough old lag.
It’s an intimidating environment and Lindon pulls no punches in his depiction of the claustrophobic, dog eat dog atmospherics. Will, slightly built and with a background as a nurse, is at first an easy target, but under Jimmy’s wing he learns the ropes and discovers that his fellow inmates are not stereotypical bad guys, but individuals with posturing strengths and weaknesses and emotional yearnings.
Events outside, where lawyers are working on Will’s behalf, are more in line with a TV legal drama and if Lindon allows wishful thinking to guide his hand towards a rosy denouement, then that’s okay too.
Gripping and real.
~ John Campbell