Lucky Country – Movie Review

There’s a bit of a buzz about Aussie cinema at the moment, a sense that we may be in the early stages of a resurgence after years in the wilderness. This may or may not be the case. A lot of the optimism is doubtless attributable to influential At The Movies duo David Stratton and Margaret Pomeranz, who have bestowed rave reviews on several 2009 Australian releases – Samson and Delilah, My Year Without Sex and Last Ride – and smiled benevolently upon others such as the Perth-based production Two Fists, One Heart (which I also reviewed favourably – see here).

I await with interest The Duo’s appraisal of new South Australian release Lucky Country. Not that I take much notice of dear old David and Margaret – on the contrary. My interest here is in whether they join the gaggle of online critics gushing with praise for this antipodean Western, which in my view is a barker through and through. I suspect there’s an optimism virus infecting those aboard the Aussie-cinema-resurgence bandwagon. I’m curious as to whether the two senior drivers of the wagon exhibit the shit-detector-failure symptoms of their passengers.

So, vot you goink on about, Rolan? Vot schtink so bad about dis Lucky Country, eh?

  • A tedious performance from Aden Young, who broods and looks ponderous and deep, and broods some more and looks ponderous and deep some more, until (mercifully) he’s bashed, locked in a cage and rendered speechless by lockjaw. Then he dies. Whoops – should I have issued some sorta spoiler caution? No matter…a dud is a dud = already spoiled.
  • The writer (Andy Cox) and director (Kriv Stenders) are content to wheel out cliche after cliche. To wit:
    The Christian fundamentalist frontierman, stupidly and stubbornly trusting in God to provide for his family in inhospitable country that has taken the life of his wife. Signs of rebellion from his two children, 12 year old Tom and adolescent Sarah. The arrival of a group of bad dudes with gold fever. One of them’s a cad who looms as a threat to Sarah’s virginity. Another’s a rough diamond alcoholic, while the leader is badness incorporated. Sound familiar?

    Worst of all the cliches, though, is the depiction (yet again) of the Aussie bush as a place of menace and foreboding. Since Weir’s masterful Picnic At Hanging Rock, film-makers in this country have been obsessed with the Aussie bush as alien entity, sinister presence, hostile force. Weir captured this brilliantly in Hanging Rock, but how many more times do we need to be presented with this now tiresome proposition that we’re not wanted here, that the bush is seeking to eject us, that we stay on only at our physical and metaphysical peril? It’s been done to death, boys! Do it differently or don’t do it at all!

    Most irritating is the director’s constant and ham-fisted signalling to the audience via clumsy hand-held overhead shots that the bush is ever-present, lurking as some vague malevolent force. Time and time again, the camera whirls about the bush and sky from the POV of (mostly) poor God-forsaken Aden Young, whose haunted eyes search for…what? The Blair Witch? Fuck me! Got the point the first time, boys…and I recall it well enough from Picnic At Hanging Rock, in any case. Talk about hard labour. Enough of bushy alienation ferchissake!

  • The writing is pretty humdrum. Lots of borrowing from stuff you’ve seen and heard before. eg: The line so many online reviewers have latched on to: “Your mother always said never turn away strangers, they may be angels in disguise.”

    The characters are American Western cutouts displaced to the Aussie bush. And the narrative is confused, departing from the standard format you might expect in a Hollywood film, but wandering off in an unconvincing, improbable and ultimately unsatisfying direction in the last third of the movie. It’s as if the writer was determined to loose himself from the confines of standard dramatic form without knowing what to do once he was out there on his own.

    And as for the farcical three-way shootout in which all three bad guys cop a bullet…give us a break!

  • Some unforgivable slip-ups. Almost as bad as a boom in shot, water splashed on to the camera lens in one scene. Was the budget so tight that this couldn’t have been re-shot (or edited out)? And how did the relatively recent Americanism “wait up” stay undetected in the dialogue of a period piece set in 1902? Shabby, lads, shabby.

    You know, I could have forgiven all the above and more if only I had felt something for any of the characters. I didn’t. The actors weren’t to blame. Aden Young aside, the performances were good. But when a work is as ill-conceived as this, when a story is built hollow and gets lost on its way to who ever knew where, and bores the viewer silly in the process – well, you just want it to end, doncha?

    It’s got my nomination for dog of the year so far, having displaced The Boat That Rocked…and that’s a sad indictment indeed.

    For other Boomtown Rap movie reviews, see Movie Review Archives

  • 4 thoughts on “Lucky Country – Movie Review”

    1. You obviously have no idea what you are talking about. Lucky Country is one the best films I have seen for a long time.

    2. Fark, if this pile of plop is the best movie you’ve seen for “a long time”, I gotta ask, what have you been watching? Or maybe you just don’t get out much…?

      It means nothing at all to simply come out with an unsupported comment like yours.

      I have supported my opinion through reference to aspects of the movie, and reasoned out my assessment in some depth. Come back with at least some REASON for your opinion, or you dismiss yourself as an inarticulate dumb-arse bimbo with crap taste in movies.

    3. Rolan, jeez – I’ve missed yer mate. I lost a lot of data on a computer meltdown a while back and probably spent way too long grieving the loss. (This includes your site info; which somehow took me a while to remember).
      Anyway… so what did you really think of ‘The Boat That Rocked’? Havent seen it, but got a few whiffs from the promo’s. God, how good to read someone fearless with a great nose for shite. If there’s something really irritating about this day and age, its the avalanche of mediocrity passed off as meaningful excellence.
      A few personal gripes of my own:

      Wine. You know I could remember a time when every bottle of $10 plonk
      tasted pretty OK. In fact some were near bleedin great. I would estimate that 9 out 10 of the last (cheapish) reds I bought were bordering on absolute shite. I was so peed off with a Jacobs Creek Shiraz
      I emailed. They graciously apologized
      and promised to send a few bottles my way. (Said it was probably corked…Stelvin cap and all!) I appreciate the effort and all, but why dont they just put half decent plonk in the bottle to start with and save us all a lot of fucking about?

      21st Century Music. I’ve tried to listen honest, but God help me; how is it that so many have so little to say… and all so tunelessly alike?
      Did you see the Brian Eno interview, and his comments re Pro Tools? I rest my case.
      I fear if I go on you’ll think I’m
      a meth freak, so will just say its good to be back. Sorry, forgot the real name as well. I blame the 60’70’s & 80’s.
      Didnt watch the cooking show, ABC, SBS and Radio National adequately fill my recreational quota.

      Regards, Dennis F.

      PS Ohh… and re your female correspondent above. On my last trip to Thailand I took a brief sojourn to Koh Phangnan Island. There were around 10,000 just like her – everywhere. (You should go there, just so you can leave!)
      Thankfully, most of the Genipods have decided against procreation. See – there is hope!

    4. G’day Dennis! Good to hear from ya. And thanks for your kind words of acknowledgment.

      I should have responded way before now. I can only plead guilty to a nasty case of sustained blogging despondency. Pathetic responses such as that exemplified by the dim dora above don’t do much to encourage me, I have to say. Most of the time there’s just a yawning silence, and that’s disheartening, but preferable nevertheless to moronic ego-assertions of the sort silly Kate Cameron has indulged in.

      Still, there is the occasional glimmer of hope when an intelligent, articulate reader pops up with a comment – consider yourself categorised thus!

      Laughed at your concluding comments!


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