Down Under places its feet firmly in the realm of truth from the outset, kicking off with sobering footage of the Cronulla race riots in 2006 – before pivoting into an absurd and farcical tale of street warfare and bigotry-induced idiocy. It’s hardly a spoiler to say that things turn out as well as you would expect when you fill two cars with abrasive hotheads, and send them out onto the streets – the innocence of sweetheart scene-stealer Evan is not the only casualty here.
This film is as much about the consequences of toxic masculinity as it is prejudice, as sympathetic characters are swept up into the fray by family loyalties and peer pressure. Even the more vicious characters are humanised, although their actions are never justified. Along with Chris Bunton as Evan, Alexander England gives a fine turn as aimiable stoner Shit-Stick (he doesn’t get another name).
The filmmaking is surprisingly top-notch, with early aerial footage setting up the suburban battleground before the camera cuts closer for kinetic and gut-churning action sequences. While not a lot of attention has been paid to keeping things period (flip-phones aside), the movie wisely doesn’t set the characters up with military-grade weaponry for a dramatic finale. Instead WWI rifles and cricket bats are the order of the day, cranking up the absurdity – and the brutality. A car chase in the second half is an exemplar highlight, managing to be both hilarious and nail-biting in equal measure.
Australia’s answer to Chris Morris’ excellent Four Lions, Down Under walks the line between keeping things light and knowing when it’s time to stop laughing. With a gut-punch ending that is sure to leave an impression, and a flurry of belly-laugh moments along the way, this movie is a must-see.
CAST: Lincoln Younes, Rahel Romahn, Alexander England, Chris Bunton
DIRECTOR: Abe Forsythe
WRITER: Abe Forsythe
SYNOPSIS: A black comedy set during the aftermath of the Cronulla riots, it is the story of two carloads of hotheads from both sides of the fight destined to collide.