Down Under review: The shenanigans in the shire is an absurdly entertaining riot.
Down Under review by Sacha Hall, LFF 2016.
Welcome to my back yard!
The Shire. No, not the land of hobbits you know on middle-earth but the surf-loving, fair-dinkum locale of sporting stars, swimsuit models and middle to upper class white folks. An area that is as iconic to Sydneysider’s as Bondi is to the world.
And just like that partially-truthful throwaway statement, director Abe Forsythe walks a fine line between truth and absurd extremism in his latest film Down Under.
Flipping racially driven tragedy into comedy, Forsythe delivers an acerbic tale set during the aftermath of the 2005 Cronulla riots with two carloads of hotheads throwing common sense out of their pussy-wagon and hotted-up Commie windows.
In the homologous suburb of Lakemba, Hassim (Lincoln Younes) eschews the middle-eastern stereotype; he’s studious, hard-working, level-headed, and stays out of trouble. Deeply concerned about his brother Farouk who has yet to return home from Cronulla the previous day, ‘Hass’ is suckered into and pressured to ride along with his drug-dealing, idiotically revengist ex-friend Nick (Rahel Romahn), Nick’s hearing-impaired rapper partner-in-crime D-Mac (Fayassl Bazzi) and Hass’ overly passionate Islamist uncle Ibrahim who wants to get Farouk
Back in Cronulla, habitual pot-smoker Shane a.k.a Shit Stick (Alexander England) is gearing up for a movie marathon in another well-known shire with his much wiser cousin Evan (Christopher Bunton) who just wants to learn to drive and watch lord of the rings. Unimpressed by his lack of Shire pride, emasculated baby daddy Jason (Damon Herriman) implores Shit Stick to come along and patrol the area. Needing Shit Stick’s pussy wagon to ‘go beat up some wogs’, Jason manages to brow-beat Shit-Stick into tagging along, with Evan and Jason’s tough-stickered sidekick Ditch (Justin Rosniak) rounding out the four from the shore.
With pit stops along the way – a visit to Nick’s campy gay, drug-lord Vic (hilariously played by David Field), a rushed sunset prayer at the airport, and botched trip/hold up for new pants for the wogs and a WW1 arsenal acquisition from shit sticks racist, 2nd gen Cronull-ite Dad, Graham (Marshall Napier), a meet up with the ‘HRD CNT crew to finalise territory, and a local kebab run for Jason’s heavily pregnant wife and ex-Kingsway gobbler Stacey (Harriet Dyer) – these two carloads of looney hoons soon converge together in one never-ending, unforgettable catastrophe.
What I liked about the film is the way in which Forsythe injects humour into every facet of the film, from the whip smart writing to the subtlety of delivering his dead-pan truths ‘Festival? No, riot’, his music selection and the impressive camerawork by DoP Lachlan Milne. Milne’s 360? camera work of Nick and the boys in the Commodore following their visit to Vic’s is a particular standout. Likewise, Forsythe’s tongue-in-cheek references at himself through Ditch’s Ned Kelly loving character is also quite entertaining.
The showdown in the Shire that is Down Under is a breath of fresh air amongst some of the more heavy-hitting fare at this year’s Festival. The extremities to which Forsythe takes his ironic, racial and conflict themes, his motley crew of character stereotypes and his hotheads out for revenge storyline, is absurd entertainment at its funniest.
A great laugh all round and definitely worth the price of admission. Make sure to check it out.
Down Under review by Sacha Hall, October 2016.
Down Under is playing as part of the 2016 BFI London Film. It is awaiting a UK release date.