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Barky (Marty Denniss) returns home to the Sydney suburb of Erskineville for his fatherís funeral, after escaping two years previously from his drunken abuse. He had left behind his girlfriend Lanny (Marin Mimica), his friends and his brother Wace (Hugh Jackman). Although his father is no longer alive, the grievances and baggage that Barky and Wace harbour from their torn household are. Barky thought leaving was tough; what about coming home?

Review by Louise Keller:
Highly underrated when released in 1999, Erskineville Kings was based on a play by Marty Denniss. The is a milestone film in many ways, being the debut feature film of director Alan White, and the screen debut of our own superstar Hugh Jackman. Denniss (using the pseudonym Anik Chooney) developed the script with White, and on their interesting (if stilted commentary on the DVD), they discuss how the film was shot in reverse, in order to accommodate Jackman before his shooting commitments on his second film (Antony Bowmanís Paperback Hero). Jackman acknowledges that this is the film that led to his casting of several major Hollywood projects. Thereís black and white audition footage on the DVD, and yes, that includes Jackmanís. 

Hard hitting, yet surprisingly subtle, itís a moody film with undercurrent to burn. It is beautifully shot with lingering glimpses of the street, the train station, the shop fronts, all setting the scene of suburban Erskineville. The slow pace is a notable feature, White taking great pains to show the external normality of life, and how it just goes on - superfically at least, with little change. Characters walk in and out of frame and in some scenes, there's no action, just a glimpse of a style of life. 

Much of the dialogue is stilted and awkward Ė much like life's real dialogue in the suburbs. Emotions aren't talked about, but we feel the seething beneath. Brought together by the death of their father, it's the story about two brothers Ė their differences, and the pain they share. How they each deal with the emotional baggage they carry. But there are weaknesses in the script, which is under-developed. Some of the charactersí complexities could have been brought to life in richer detail. 

What Erskineville Kings does well is show an authentic slice of real life. This is where the guys go to the Kings Hotel for a drink and a game of darts. They smoke a joint at a friend's place. They have a stubby and talk about nothing much. It's not until they get into the toilet, that guts get spilt. In many ways, it is deceptive how much information is divulged about the characters. From seemingly innocent conversations about topics as diverse as circumcision and boxers and Y-fronts, the textures and colours are woven. 

Hugh Jackman gets the dirt right under his nails. He is superb as the brother who takes on and wears his father's guilt like a chain around his neck. The entire ensemble cast is excellent, with great naturalistic performances. Moody, melancholy and powerful, Erskineville Kings is a stylised portrait of the Aussie whose emotions are buried as deep as a dog's bone, but satisfying if discovered.

Published February 19, 2004

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CAST: Marty Denniss, Hugh Jackman, Aaron Blabey, Andrew Wholley, Joel Edgerton, Leah Vandenberg, Marin Mimica

DIRECTOR: Alan White

SCRIPT: Anik Chooney

RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes

PRESENTATION: widescreen

SPECIAL FEATURES: audio commentary by Alan White and writer/actor Marty Denniss; deleted scenes; audition footage & montage, music video, trailers, photo gallery.

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: February 25, 2004

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