‘Stone Bros’ – Movie Review

Director and writer of Stone Bros, Richard J Frankland, is a funny bastard. Piss-taking, irreverent and just genuinely bloody funny. His intro at the Q&A screening of the movie last Sunday night had the place rockin’. I’m a comic’s nightmare, routinely po-faced while others are rolling around hooting, but I cacked myself to the point of needing to wipe away tears by the time he was finished with us.

Disappointing, then, that this bloke’s undeniable comic talent didn’t quite bloom on-screen in Stone Bros – not as extravagantly as it might have, at least.

This is the first Aboriginal stoner road movie, and as such, as Frankland pointed out in the post-screening Q&A session, it’s a radical departure from the common depiction of the Aboriginal as noble savage. “Black fellas can be funny buggers, too, ” he asserted (redundantly), adding with glee that he and producer Ross Hutchens had waived aside PC considerations at every opportunity in the making of Stone Bros.

Ironic, then, that one of my problems with the movie is that it is not outrageous enough. Not in a groundbreaking, genre-shaking kinda way, at least.

Of course, Cheech and Chong’s trademark as originators of this sub-genre looms so large as to render any subsequent doper road comedy replete with ganja gags more or less passe. Stone Bros runs straight through this hurdle rather than clearing it, but that’s forgivable.

A little less so is the invocation of the spirit of The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert (a movie I yawned through), which materialises in the tranny character Regina (David Page). Page – a bona fide drag artiste – gives an ebullient performance, so no issue there. But for me, the character was a bit try-hard, forced into the story as a whacky element, perhaps out of an over-riding urge to blow Aboriginal stereotypes out of the water, rather than emerging naturally out of the imaginative milieu of the movie’s inner world.

If blasting away at indigenous stereotypes was a core agenda of the film makers, they have succeeded that far. Party boy Charlie, effervescently played by Leon Burchill (the standout among the performers), is an endearing, irresponsible, job-shirking, womanising doper with a wild afro, a shitload of ready-rolled numbers, and an irreverent approach to just about everything, including his culture. Eddie, by contrast (played by Luke Carroll), is an earnest young bloke striving to “do the right thing”, but vulnerable to Charlie’s influence. Light-skinned, worried that he is “not black enough”, he is fixated on his cultural heritage and sense of indigenous identity. Then there’s Mark (Peter Phelps), a sensitive white cop on a spiritual quest who believes he is a black fella trapped in a whitey’s body (now there’s a spectacular stereotype explosion!). Not to mention a possessed zombie dog…

All good. As are the performances. What’s not is the dodgy script. Too many gags fall flat, too many lines draw attention to themselves as “written”, and the narrative meanders about less than purposefully much of the time, losing itself in zany diversions that deliver on eccentricity but not much else.

The irreverence that informs the greater part of the movie is undercut by a terribly PC – and, to my mind, unconvincing – anti-drug conclusion. I think it unlikely that any young audience will buy it.

Stone Bros will probably gain a devoted cult following, and going by the response of the audience on Sunday, many will find it funnier than I did. Ultimately, though, it’s just another in a long line of quirky Aussie movies. With some rigorous editing and/or a re-working of the script to ruthlessly dispense with the flab and the flat lines, it could have been more.

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7 thoughts on “‘Stone Bros’ – Movie Review”

  1. I’m interested in seeing this film all the same, even if it doesn’t live up to expectations. I’ve yet to see Samson & Delilah also, but hopefully will remedy this situation soon.

    I’m a fan of aboriginal flicks (or flicks with aboriginal actors). I think the mighty “Backroads” from ’78 turned me on to this (sub)genre. It pulled no punches and had an excellent cast. To be honest I haven’t seen much else. “10 Canoes” was OK, kinda interesting, nothing spectacular. I remember “The Wave” was pretty cool, with an aboriginal lead role. Oh, and “Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith” – something I must watch again soon!

    What else is there? Anybody care to contribute suggestions?

    Some flicks I want to see (have never seen before) – “Walkabout” and “Wrong Side of the Road”.

    I won’t even mention that abortion “Australia” (whoops, mentioned it!). That film was so ridiculous and full-of-cliches, it was almost WATCHABLE! (Almost – I never did get to the end).

    “Jedda” is actually pretty cool (even tho’ the lead role is a British actor in black makeup LOL).

    Can we all pitch in here and make a comprehensive list of Aussie flicks that feature aboriginal actors? (Black or white director, I don’t think really matters here, personally).

  2. G’day Matt – and ta for your comments.

    I’d hate to think anyone was put off seeing Stone Bros by my review. I didn’t actually have any expectations before I saw it – think it’s fair to say I was completely open to whatever came. My review is, as always, as honest and accurate an appraisal as I am capable of giving…but in the end, any review amounts to opinion, and opinion only. I have done my best to articulate the reasons behind my views as precisely as possible in the time and space available. Some opinions are more informed than others – it’s up to the reader to gauge whether this appears to be the case with mine, and therefore whether to assign it any significant weight.

    Remember my caution as per the opening of my post above: I am not easily seduced by comedies. And I should point out again that many others at the viewing I attended were cracking up throughout. I suspect I might have shared their mirth with the benefit of a nice big bomber half an hour before attending. Not that I do that any more…

    Hmm, other movies featuring indigenous actors…there are quite a few, but not so many that spring immediately to mind for me. Rabbit Proof Fence I loved. You mention Ten Canoes, which I found slight, but still enjoyed. Shit – can’t prise anything else from my memory banks…serves me right for attempting this at midnight on a Friday eve, recently outside a bottle of shiraz.

    Perhaps I’ll adjourn until the morrow!

    PS: I don’t know Backroads, but am sure interested in chasing it down after your rave.


  3. Thanks for posting that link, Matt. Interesting to observe the great increase in indigenous output over the last 3 years. I wasn’t aware of that.

    I’d have thought there would have been more promotion of an emerging aboriginal cinema – or perhaps I just haven’t been keeping my eyes and ears open.

    The only one of the recent releases I have seen (other than those previously mentioned) is Radiance. I remember it being pretty intense, but can’t recall it in detail.

    When you see Stone Bros, pls report back with your findings.


  4. Saw the movie today, and I know what most of your comments mean now. It was better than I thought it would be though.

    Only twice did I laugh out loud: first with the accidental passing of the moggy in the opening minutes, and my favourite scene of all was when Charlie and Eddie decided to back up to pick up the hitchhiker. One of those belly-laugh moments when you think it can’t get worse and it does!

    Twice I felt uncomfortable. Once in the lockup with the speech given to the copper, and again when Eddie found Charlie had ‘his’ stone. Both times, the narrative felt strained and scripted.

    Lots of smiles throughout. Worth seeing definitely. Enjoyed it.

  5. Welcome, and good on you for bothering to comment, Deb. I’ve had so many hits on this review and only you and Matt have contributed anything to the Comments thread.

    Glad you enjoyed the movie! It’s pretty weak IMO, but sounds like you had a fun ride.

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