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Backlash (1986)
Australia 1986
Directed by Bill Bennett
Running time 89 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars


Bill Bennett is a writer/director who likes to take already established film forms and give them a distinctively Antipodean spin. In this intriguing effort he, with the aid of co-writer Brain Syron, takes the form of Hal Ashby's 1973 classic The Last Detail (a nod and a wink is given to the audience during a campfire exchange) and fills it with Outback dust. Here two cops, Trevor, a streetwise cynic (David Argue) who has been demoted for killing an Aboriginal youth during a drug bust, and Nikki (Gia Carides), an idealistic rookie, are escorting a female prisoner (Lydia Miller) from Sydney to Broken Hill to stand trial for murder. The relationship between the three starts to change when Trevor decides to take a detour but ultimately a twist of fate brings their new found friendship undone.

Bennett, who wrote the original 26 page scene breakdown, spent 2 weeks with the cast improvising before shooting began in and around Broken Hill. The result is an offbeat comedy/thriller/drama that impresses for its lively playfulness and winning performances. David Argue is outstanding as Trevor, a man on the edge of he knows not what with a coruscating sense of humour, Gia Carides as his better educated, principled partner provides a beautifully balanced foil to his school-of-hard-knocks mentality, whilst Lydia Miller's quiet wisdom is the focal point about which these two spin, more or less out of control.

One suspects, especially when recalling the Ashby original and the film's title reinforces this, that the apparent oddities of the film, particularly towards its end (for example, large jumps in the narrative and the ludicrously improbable "interrogation" of the publican's wife) are the function of a limited budget ($275,000) rather than Bennett's choice to play for comedy, but even if so, Backlash is an engagingly-flawed gem.

 

 

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