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MOVIE REVIEW: Crackingly paced but runs out of puff

Bryan Brown and Jenny Wu in a scene from the movie Australia Day.
Bryan Brown and Jenny Wu in a scene from the movie Australia Day. Vince Valitutti

A KINETIC work of art, according to the Oxford Dictionary, is one that depends on movement for its effect.

That's Kriv Stenders' Australia Day in a stubby holder.

The fight-or-flight response of the three main characters, each of whom is experiencing acute stress, drives this independent crime drama.

Clearly inspired by the 2006 Oscar-winner Crash, the film tells the interconnected stories of a bunch of disenfranchised Australians against the backdrop of the problematic national holiday.

In Australia Day's opening sequence, each of the key players is running for their life.

There's an Aboriginal girl (Miah Madden) who was the passenger in a car that has just been involved in a fatal police chase. Her sister was driving.

Shari Sebbens and Miah Madden in a scene from the movie Australia Day.
Shari Sebbens and Miah Madden in a scene from the movie Australia Day. Vince Valitutti

Just as distressed is the Chinese sex slave (Jenny Wu) who can't go to the police for fear her captors will track her down.

Luckily, she manages to wave down Bryan Brown's Vietnam Vet.

But since the bank has just foreclosed on his family farm, the embittered old timer is too preoccupied by his own problems to fully appreciate his hitchhiker's predicament. And she doesn't speak any English.

Sami Ghaznavi (Barracuda's Elias Anton) is on the run from his girlfriend's violent, racist brother (an indelibly nasty performance from Puberty Blues' Sean Keenan).

Daniel Webber and Sean Keenan in a scene from the movie Australia Day.
Daniel Webber and Sean Keenan in a scene from the movie Australia Day. Vince Valitutti


As a director, Stenders is perhaps best known as the director of the breakout 2011 hit Red Dog and its sequel True Blue.

But the bulk of his oeuvre as a filmmaker is grittier and more independent.

Stenders' low-budget 2007 drama Boxing Day, about a recovering alcoholic who prepares a festive lunch for his family, nailed the dark side of another emotionally charged public holiday.

Australia Day is less successful. Initially, the story is carried along by the momentum of its characters. But when they run out of steam, so does the screenplay.

And the resolution is just a little too neat.

Australia Day opens in Dendy Cinemas tomorrow.

Phoenix Raei, Neveen Hanna and Elias Anton in a scene from the movie Australia Day.
Phoenix Raei, Neveen Hanna and Elias Anton in a scene from the movie Australia Day. Vince Valitutti


 

Australia Day

Stars: Bryan Brown, Sean Keenan, Elias Anton.

Director: Kriv Stenders

Rating: MA 15+

Verdict: 2.5 stars


 

Topics:  australia day foxtel kriv stenders movies

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