Monday, November 14, 2011

Razorback (1984)

A wild boar, urban Americans and Australian rednecks

A man named Jake Cullen puts his grandson to sleep when suddenly a huge razorback boar charges through his home. The man is blamed for the events and goes to court with the evidence being suspicious but ultimately inconclusive. Two years later and a woman from New York, Beth Winters, heads to the town of Gamulla, Australia to do investigative coverage of kangaroo and wallabies being slaughtered in excess. She gets closed mouths and dirty looks of the we-don't-like-your-kind-'round-here type at the local bar and inn, only to stop into Cullen who now dedicated his life to going exclusively after boars: "There's something about blasting the shit out a razorback that brightens up my whole day." Soon enough the must-unravel-the-truth-no-matter-the-cost woman not only has a run in with two violent and sadistic local brothers that want to teach her a lesson, but also the monstrous razorback that's returned from years earlier. Her attentive husband, Carl, goes to Gamulla to look into his wife's disappearance, runs into Cullen, the two that initially terrorized his wife and also meets another lass named Sarah (Arkie Whiteley - R.I.P. 2001) who tracks the boars.

After a certain point, the story is somewhat loose as it moves from one thing to the next, all the while building up to have a final show down with the razorback who by that point seems more cinematic and fantasy than made to be the real deal. With such open land mass, somehow it's able to elude hunters that canvas every square inch and then come about with a sixth sense for confrontation; this isn't an open body of water like in "Jaws" but a place with little vegetation for hiding. It makes it seem like it's boarding on gimmick if it weren't for the locations and locals being utilized along with it. The razorback comes and goes conveniently as to how the story is holding up and when it's needed. When it shows up it's a raging beast with a nearly impenetrable body that only has one mode of attack: charge. The razorback plays both sides of the fence by taking out bad people and good, so in that it keeps itself less formulaic and straightforward.

There's anywhere from light to dark humor thrown in to make the events a little more fun than overly serious: some of them misplaced, some of them genuinely funny. This has a peculiar atmosphere at points as you get used to Gamulla and its gun in one hand, beer in the other Australian country folk that are so over-the-top with their sayings and makeshift, do-it-themselves modes of living that they might give some "Texas Chainsaw" cretins a run for their money. The score, performed on a synthesizer, delivers both a distinctive and mood enhancing tone, though sometimes it can be intrusive by hitting higher strings at bombastic levels to the point of being louder than anything else. There are a number of atmospheric scenes when out in the brush with certain lighting tricks, obscured view and odd noises to make it seem both serene and also dangerous, like anything could pop out at any time in this out of reach area where some of the locals might be just as dangerous as to what's lurking in the shadows.

To its credit, "Razorback" isn't always predictable--apart from the whole regular people shtick that have to handle the problem instead of authorities--but then, on the other hand, it only takes its premise and story so far. This has a share of characters yet doesn't keep a steady focus on a specific one for too long, not to mention the razorback even less. By jumping around it keeps it a little more general and simplistic by not always treading deeper to be a closer friend to share secrets but more an amusing acquaintance that comes and goes with idle conversation. Gregory Harrison, as Carl, seems to represent the you or me character that finds himself in an unfamiliar situation and how he has to solve it without always making him a thoroughly captivating hero till he can work up the courage; essentially the finale is the most exemplary but before that he doesn't always capture the frame. Bill Kerr takes over every scene he's in with some memorable lines as Cullen and should have been shown more of. Some insignificant scenes are grazed over to help it move steadily along, while others have some tones that clash and seem exaggerated. The subtext shows the greed of certain hunters, how they want more and more or don't care at what cost they get it. Along with two men who have a determination after tragic events robbed something from them that turns into a vendetta at whatever the cost.

Rating: 7/10

Director: Russell Mulcahy (Highlander, The Shadow)
Stars: Judy Morris, Bill Kerr, Gregory Harrison, Arkie Whiteley, David Argue, Chris Haywood
Link: IMDB

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