Breaking news: it turns out you probably shouldn't believe everything Nigel Farage tells you. Far from the foreigner-free utopia that Britain’s own mini-Trump implies Australia has become because they've adopted the perfect solution of the points-based immigration system, Down Under paints a very different, far uglier picture. Beginning with shocking real footage of the 2005 Sydney race riots, it quickly zooms in on two conflicting groups – one white, one Arab – as they head towards a violent showdown on the Crunolla beach of Sydney’s area known as ‘The Shire’.
There are two cars, each carrying four men. In one, Nick drags along his reluctant best friend Hassim who just wants to find his missing brother. In the other Jason ropes in his stoner mate Shit-Stick who just wants to watch Lord of the Rings with his high functioning Down syndrome cousin Evan. After the violence of the night before, the whites are itching to go ‘Lebanese-bashing’, while the Arabs are keen to stand their ground and show the Aussie locals that they won’t be pushed around and off the beach. Both cars are loaded with an assortment of weapons and enough ignorance to fuel a potentially explosive finale.
With its opening shots of real riots, 24-hour spanning narrative and warring races at each other's throats, Down Under sounds like an Antipodean La Haine or a Do the Right Thing Down Under edition. But writer/director Abe Forsythe are rarely interested in the drama inherent in the situation. Down Under is topsy-turvy turning what should be a politically charged tragedy into a ludicrous, hysterical farce. Almost every character is an idiot and every confrontation, every attempt at violence ends in acts of hilarious incompetence.
From the guy with a bandaged face to protect his recently tattooed face, to the white trash couple who endlessly swear at their kids and let them watch horrific Aussie horror Wolf Creek, to the numbskulls that hold up a Middle Eastern fast food joint just to get a kebab, Down Under is full of laughable grotesques. It's a film that ruthlessly mocks the little people; the idiots that get involved in these petty race wars for often insignificant reasons. In that sense, it is a tragedy, but Down Under barely lets up from providing belly laughs for enough time to care about any of the characters.
Any seriousness is almost immediately punctured wether by hilarious pop song choices from The Vengaboys to Natalie Imbruglia, or by the utter stupidity of the characters delivering the lines. But Down Under’s best ploy is to just about keep you caring as the two cars eventually collide. In each car, there is an innocent, someone with a few brain cells to rub together with the potential to rise above the pit of hatred, aggression, xenophobia, homophobia and sexism that they find themselves living in. With one car also packed with enough canisters of petrol to blow all of the men sky high, Down Under still manages to keep you gripped even as it blares Christmas songs over the most inappropriate moments of tension.
Most of all, let Down Under be a warning. All is clearly not well in Australia and if this film is anything to go by, they are living with exactly the same racial tensions and dealing with the same level of ignorance as we are. But it's a lot bloody easier to laugh about it when it’s 10,000 miles away.
DOWN UNDER / DIRECTOR & SCREENWRITER:
ABE FORSYTHE / STARRING: LINCOLN YOUNES, RAHEL ROMAHN, MICHAEL DENKHA, FAYSSAL
BAZZI, ALEXANDER ENGLAND, RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 6TH
Expected Rating: 7 out of 10