Aussiewood: Ricochet (1991), Blue Ice (1992), The Real McCoy (1993)

COnnery

This latest installment of Down Under Flix’s Aussiewood series chronicling the adventures and misadventures of Australian filmmakers abroad deals with Russell Mulcahy. This isn’t the first time I’ve written about Mulcahy on this website – see my review of his 2003 sports biopic Swimming Upstream – but it’s my first time writing about the director’s signature action fare. Following his inventive creature feature debut Razorback (1984) and the cult success of Highlander (1986), the stalwart music video director looked to be on an upward trajectory as a filmmaker. However, Mulcahy was fired two weeks into production on the Sylvester Stallone vehicle Rambo III (1988) because he wasn’t shooting enough close-ups of its hubristic star, and the subsequent production and release of the much-maligned (and deservedly so) Highlander II: The Quickening (1991) was a ghastly, pained process. RicochetBlue Steel, and The Real McCoy followed those professional debacles in quick succession, and these three films feel like exercises in directorial penitence: they’re moderately budgeted, straight-down-the-line mainstream features and are largely inoffensive, discounting the innately quippy immorality of the Joel Silver era of action cinema that Ricochet slots into.

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John Hargreaves double feature: Hoodwink (1981) and Sky Pirates (1986)

John-Hargreaves

Discounting the film Blackfellas, in which he plays a minor role as a racist policeman, I’m surprised it’s taken this long to cover any John Hargreaves films on Down Under Flix. A six time AFI Award nominee (including for Hoodwink) and triple winner, Hargreaves is one of the best leading men to emerge from the Australian New Wave, and I have particular regard for his work in Don’s Party, Long Weekend, and The Odd Angry Shot. Hargreaves was a natural performer: gifted and charismatic, but not unnecessarily flashy; handsome, but not movie star handsome, and slightly crumpled like a creased jacket. He was a quintessential Australian everyman ala Jack Thompson and Bryan Brown, though he’s less familiar to young filmgoers today, partly due to his untimely passing in 1996 at age 50. This article looks at one of Hargreaves’ best films… and one of his other films…

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Resistance (1992)

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Directed by: Hugh Keays-Byrne, Paul Elliott

Starring: Helen Jones, Lorna Lesley, Robyn Nevin, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Stephen Leeder, Harold Hopkins, Jack Thompson

First viewing, via DVD

Resistance is a film that’s been on my “to watch” list a long time. A remote-set dystopian action-thriller co-directed by character actor Hugh Keays-Byrne, best known as the antagonist in those other famous remote-set dystopian action-thrillers Mad Max and Mad Max: Fury Road, is an enticing proposition. However, the film was not afforded a conventional theatrical release in Australia, and is not widely available on physical or streaming media. I managed to secure a DVD copy via Amazon, but on receiving and finally playing the disc was disappointed to find the soundtrack was in French and there were no English subtitles. I decided to forge ahead and watch the film anyway, on the chance I mightn’t ever see it in another form, though I hope that Ozflix can one day add it to their collection with its original soundtrack. That wasn’t my only quandary though; I also had to decide whether to review a film which, based on the language barrier, clearly had me at a disadvantage. Again, I decided to forge ahead and do this because, as this review attests, even under imperfect viewing standards the film’s merits are evident.

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The Time Guardian (1987)

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Director: Brian Hannant

Stars: Tom Burlinson, Nikki Coghill, Dean Stockwell, Carrie Fisher

First viewing, via DVD

Earlier this week I read that Ian McKellen cried a little while filming a scene on The Hobbit when forced to act alongside photos on a green screen stage rather than other actors, who were filmed separately and incorporated digitally in post-production. Reading that piece and reflecting on the past few months of money misspent at the multiplex seeing films best described as digital minestrone soups – X-Men: Apocalypse, Warcraft, Independence Day: Resurgence – made me unexpectedly receptive to the celluloid tactility of The Time Guardian. I don’t think it’s a great film by any means, but it’s unquestionably a film, with actors and sets and stunts and some grounding in rudimentary physics.

During the 1980s, tax incentives made financing Australian films more attractive to investors, resulting in some heavily Americanized, commercially overt hybrid offerings, like the Indiana Jones-esque Sky Pirates (dubbed by producer John Lamond “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Crap”) and The Return of Captain Invincible, a superhero musical comedy starring Alan Arkin and Christopher Lee. The Time Guardian, as Australia’s first moderately budgeted science-fiction action film, is cut from the same cloth. This shouldn’t be surprising; the film was produced by Antony Ginnane, long a champion of transatlantic-minded, culturally-unspecific genre fare (see Harlequin, Turkey Shoot etc) and funded in large part by Hemdale, the British company behind The Terminator (and clearly wanting more of that Terminator money). But to its credit the film, made at and near Hendon Studios in South Australia, acknowledges and incorporates its Australian origins.

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