Category Archives: Australian noir

Strangerland

strangerland-poster-cinema-australiaInitial impressions can be deceiving in Kim Farrant’s debut feature movie, Strangerland.

On the surface it appears to be another version of the women-and-children-in-danger-plot-line so popular at the moment (think Gone Girl, Top of the Lake and half the crime novels that have been published in the last few years). But the film boasts some interesting twists and bravely examines themes you won’t see in many of the similar films.

The Parker’s have just moved to Nathgari, a spec of a town (‘population 1048’), surrounded by a seemingly endless expanse of beautiful but inhospitably sun blasted outback. The family unit – Catherine (Nicole Kidman), her highly-strung husband, Matthew (Joseph Fiennes), daughter Lily (Maddison Brown) and young son, Tommy (Nicholas Hamilton) – is clearly under pressure. Tommy, in particular, is intensely resentful about the move.

It becomes obvious fairly quickly that whatever it is that they’ve had to flee is connected to Lily and her burgeoning sexuality. Despite being a minor, she is sexually active and this has caused problems in the past, clearly sign posted when Matthew tells his son: ‘Don’t let her out of your sight, ok?’

It is no surprise then when both kids go missing. Indeed, Matthew watches from one of the windows of their home, as they leave in the middle of the night.… Read more

Ghost Money redux

GhostMoneyfinalcoverOkay, it’s official. Ghost Money, my crime novel set in 1990s Cambodia, now has a second life via the folks at Hong Kong based publisher, Crime Wave Press.

Ghost Money was originally published in the US in 2012, but, given the setting, I’m thrilled that it’s now in the hands of an Asian-based publisher. And feast your eyes on the wonderful cover the folks at Crime Wave Press have done.

You can pick up the Kindle version of Ghost Money here, with the dead tree book to follow in the near future.

Regular Pulp Curry readers may be familiar with Ghost Money. For those who have not heard of it or checked it out, the elevator pitch involves a missing Australian businessman, a Vietnamese Australian ex-cop with a history, a country still recovering from the trauma of the Khmer Rouge. As one of my favourite blurbs for the book goes: “Ghost Money could well be The Third Man of Asian Noir.”

The longer pitch is as follows:

Cambodia, 1996, the long-running Khmer Rouge insurgency is fragmenting, competing factions of the coalition government scrambling to gain the upper hand. Missing in the chaos is businessman Charles Avery. Hired to find him is Vietnamese Australian ex-cop Max Quinlan.… Read more

Sons and daughters of Mad Max: 10 great Australian dystopian road movies

The_Chain_Reaction_1980_posterWhen former doctor turned director George Miller released his first full-length feature film, Mad Max, in 1979, he wasn’t to know he had created what would become one of Australia’s greatest celluloid exports. Mad Max spawned a number of imitators and knockoffs internationally and had a profound impact on the Australian film industry. It resulted in two sequels in the 80s and a third, Mad Max: Fury Road, currently receiving rave reviews internationally.

Australia’s sheer size and relatively concentrated population means much of its cinema has either taken the form of road movies or contains aspects of the road film genre. Australian road movies encompass comedy (The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, 1994), romance (Japanese Story, 2003) and drama (Last Ride, 2009). Unless the characters have money for a plane ticket, any plot that involves leaving a major urban centre is going to necessitate a large amount of road travel.

But Mad Max has origins in and, in turn, profoundly influenced a particular strand of Australian film, which combines dystopian and noir themes with the destructive power of cars and the country’s harsh, sparsely populated land mass. Some of the factors that influenced these films have a resonance beyond Australia, such as masculine car culture and fears of societal breakdown, particularly during the energy crisis in the 70s and early 80s.… Read more

Backroads noir in the Australian outback: David Michôd’s The Rover

madmax-1aAustralian director David Michôd’s second film, The Rover, is part of a rich heritage of Australian dystopian cinema that combines the destructive power of cars with the country’s harsh, sparsely populated rural areas and desert interior. A gritty crime drama, it is among the small group of Australian films with a true noir sensibility — a bleak atmosphere and a narrative where events start badly and end up worse — on a brief list that also includes Michôd’s debut 2010 effort, Animal Kingdom.

The Rover is set in the Australian outback 10 years after an unspecified global financial collapse. It opens with a lone, unnamed traveler (Guy Pearce) sitting behind the wheel of his dusty Holden Commodore car, before going into a roadside café. The traveler’s gaunt, weather-beaten features, the café’s ramshackle appearance, its silent, heavily armed Asian owners, and the Cambodian love song booming through the establishment’s aged speakers combine to create a feeling of impending menace and a sense of geographical and cultural confusion.

The film suddenly shifts to three men driving through the desert, fleeing an unspecified crime gone wrong. One of the men, Henry (Scoot McNairy), is angry about having to leave his brother, Rey (Robert Pattinson, of Twilightfame), for dead at the scene of the crime.… Read more

The Rover

image_9eaa6Cars, speed and harsh landscape have been the basis of most locally made dystopian cinema. Think Peter Weir’s 1974 masterpiece, The Cars That Ate Paris, all three Mad Max films, The Chain Reaction (1980) and Brian-Trenchard Smith’s Dead End Drive-In (1986).

To this list we can now add the long awaited second film by Australian director David Michod, The Rover.

Set in the Australian outback “10 years after the collapse”, The Rover opens with a lone unnamed traveller (Guy Pearce), stopping off for water in a roadside cafe. Almost immediately, the film shifts to three men racing through the desert from a heist gone wrong. One of the men, Henry (Scott McNairy), is angry about having to leave his brother, Rey (Robert Pattinson), for dead at the scene of the crime. They start to fight, and their vehicle comes off the road. The three men climb out of their damaged car, grab the first alternative vehicle they see, which just happens to belong to the lone traveller, and take off again.

The traveller’s first words, “I want my car back”, form his mission statement for the rest of the film. Why he needs that particular car is unclear, given that he quickly picks up another functioning vehicle.

The traveller stops at a nearby town to buy a gun.… Read more