Ewen Leslie

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The Mule Review


OK

A strong undercurrent of Aussie black humour helps make this revolting story just about palatable, although the solid cast struggles to make the idiotic characters very likeable. The film owes a lot to the Coen Brothers' classic Fargo, as a group of people make ridiculous decisions that lead to pain, conflict and death in a situation so complex that no one has a clue what's really going on. There are some very funny moments, but the filmmakers' real goal is to gross the audience out. And that they do.

Based on a true story from 1983 Melbourne, the film centres on Ray (Angus Sampson), a geeky TV repairman who wins the annual prize in his local football club and suddenly finds himself invited to the cool parties with the team captain, his childhood friend Gavin (Leigh Whannell). The club's president Pat (John Noble) wants Gavin to travel to Bangkok to collect a shipment of heroin, and Gavin talks Ray into doing the job, swallowing 20 heroin-filled pods. When Ray panics on reentering Australia, he's picked up by federal agents Croft and Paris (Hugo Weaving and Ewen Leslie) and held for seven days in a hotel room. But Gavin refuses to move his bowel, confounding them. Meanwhile, Pat is on a rampage trying to find his missing drugs and make sure Ray doesn't spill the beans, as it were.

Yes, this is literally an anal-retentive story, told with bone-dry wit by a group of filmmakers that includes actors Sampson and Whannell (who play ghostbusters Tucker and Specs in the Insidious movies). The film moves at a surprisingly slow pace, never building up much energy but keeping everything luridly trashy as these chucklehead characters flail pointlessly against everything that goes against them. Each person thinks they're in control, but no one is. And only the underused women are truly likeable: Georgina Haig as Ray's sassy-savvy public defender and Noni Hazlehurst as his increasingly frazzled mother.

Continue reading: The Mule Review

Watch! Dead Europe Trailer (Video)


Ewen Leslie

The trailer for Dead Europe is a broody, murky affair. Directed by Tony Krawitz and coming out of Australia, the film explores the country’s Greek heritage, with Ewen Leslie playing Isaac, a man who is out in the European country to scatter the ashes of his father.

Things, as they tend to do in films, take a turn towards the dis-equilibrium as Isaac learns of a terrible curse that affects his family. “I suppose a lot of us from Australia feel like we’re from somewhere else” Isaac mentions at one point; this links to the way that pretty much all whiter Australians have European heritage, however the sentence takes on a darker meaning as he discovers that his father’s curse has come about due to some rather grim circumstances involving “innocent blood … spilled”. What follows would appear your typical creepy-undead-child-following-the-protagonist-around sort of scenario with Isaac being stalked by a rather pallid looking young chap.

The film scored a middling 67% aggregate on reviews site Rotten Tomatoes, with the glut of them coming out in December. “A promising drama of alienation that slides into portentousness” wrote the Daily Telegraph, while our own reviewer Rich Cline wrote “Even if the plot takes too long to come together, this film has a darkly foreboding tone that's thoroughly mesmerising, drawing us into its mysteries while touching on issues of race, religion and sexuality.”

Continue reading: Watch! Dead Europe Trailer (Video)

Dead Europe Review


OK

Even if the plot takes too long to come together, this film has a darkly foreboding tone that's thoroughly mesmerising, drawing us into its mysteries while touching on issues of race, religion and sexuality. It's a finely crafted film, although the filmmakers keep everything so enigmatic that we grow impatient to understand what's going on.

It centres on Australian photographer Isaac (Leslie), son of Greek immigrants who forbid their children from returning to the old country. Which of course makes them curious. Isaac's older brother Nico (Czokas) moved to Hungary years ago and never came back. And now that their father has died, Isaac decides to scatter his ashes in Greece and visit Nico. But when he gets to the ancestral village, he discovers that there's a curse on his branch of the family. It has something to do with a young Jewish boy during the war, and looking for answers in Paris and Budapest only deepens the mystery.

As Isaac travels around Europe he meets a wide variety of freaky characters who add to the film's unhinged mystery. These include his helpful Greek cousin Giulia (Skiadi) and her seductive friend Andreas (Samaras), a nutty woman (Fragos) who performs a psychic steam-reading, a Parisian couple (Balmer and Lebrun) who knew Isaac's father, an Arab woman (Bukstein) who's being trafficked, and Nico's cohort (Naor) in the drug-porn business. And there's also a homeless teen (Smit-McPhee) who seems to haunt Isaac wherever he goes.

Continue reading: Dead Europe Review

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