Thursday, July 23, 2009

Last Ride: breaking the cycle

Last Ride is another quality Australian film from Madman.

This road movie moves inexorably to its dramatic, sad but inevitable ending.

Chook (Tom Russell) is a ten year old whose father Kev (Hugo Weaving) is teaching him about outback survival while on the run. Chook doesn’t quite get it. The kid doesn’t even know who Butch and Sundance were.

Kev tries hard to be the caring father but his history is against him. The cycle of physical and psychological abuse handed on from his own father is hard to break.

Kev reckons that he and Tom are mongrels. He fits both meanings of the word. His frustrations with the world and his son are habitually spoken through his fists. His attempts to do “his job” of looking after the kid always seem to backfire.

Much of the plot is either predictable or telegraphed (with the resolution neatly achieved with the help of its modern technological descendant). There are sub-themes that are not fully developed but very topical. Kev claims that his great grandfather was an Afghan camel driver and his great grandmother was a full-blood aborigine. This prepares us for important modern Muslim and indigenous encounters during their travels.

Hugo Weaving is his usual effective self. Unfortunately he does not quite capture the character. His accent and attractive personal manner don’t fit the part of violent misfit living outside the law. True to recent performances by child actors, Tom Russell steals the film with an impressive follow-up to his role in Daniel. The rest of the cast are hard to fault.

Director Glendyn Ivin has presented a tight piece. The Flinders Ranges setting, which is beautifully photographed, is worth the price of the ticket. It’s one of Australia’s special places. The scenes driving across a salt lake covered with water are magic.

Graffiti at the start of the film tells us that “when Kooris rule… always bet on the black”. However, Kev’s gamble is bound to fail. In 21st Australia there is no place to hide in the outback. National Parks and caravan parks have replaced most of the remote camping spots. Kev's macho, Wild West view of life just doesn't work anymore.

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