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Carl (Sam Neill) is a fortyish no-hoper who takes a job as a cook in a seedy nightclub to escape his cantankerous mother (Yvonne Lawley). A dalliance with fetching barmaid Sophie (Zoe Carides), who is engaged to the nightclub owner, Yanni (Nicholas Papdemitriou) lands Carl on the wrong side of the club's vicious bouncer, Laurie (Boris Brkic). But when attacked by his drug-dealing Turkish kitchen hand, Mustafa (Nick Lathouris), Carl inflicts a grievous form of self-defence that prompts a gangland feud. Carl's best mate Dave (John Clarke) becomes his protector - and gravedigger - as a band of cutthroats block Carl's path to his bartending sweetheart.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
He wears a leather jacket and rides a bike (push, not motor) and has a Screamin' Jay Hawkins poster in his hallway, and likes a drink but Carl (Sam Neill) has a refined but overbearing mother who has come to stay - again - at his messy Brunswick pad. These are a few of the details that build layers in John Ruane's hugely entertaining black comedy, in which the droll (John Clark's Dave) and the naïve (Sam Neill's Carl) come together for some nice, dry comedy. (Well, there is one famous scene in which the humour is dry all right, but the contents of a coffin are not.) It's some of the best work from both actors. Zoe Carides is a zesty Sophie and Yvonne Lawley makes Carl's mother a real, three dimensional character.

Dialogue is excellent, and the situations ripe for the kind of laconic humour that fires Australian language and character. With its multicultural setting in suburban Melbourne, its contemporary tone and its snappy tone, Death in Brunswick is as fresh today as when it was made, with plenty of chuckles and some laugh-out-loud moments to cherish. But the screenplay is grounded in credible characters and incident, and has enough heart to give it ballast - and mean something amidst the humour.

John Ruane handles the material with skill and pace, avoiding the trap of pushing it for its comedic value; and the romance, with its undercurrent of tension and danger, is a dramatic balance to the comedy. The result is a well rounded, engaging and lasting work.

A wealth of special features include two audio commentaries with Sam Neil, John Clarke, director John Ruane and cinematographer Ellery Ryan, plus deleted scenes and a behind the scenes featurette filmed around Brunswick featuring cast and crew interviews.

Published November 22, 2007

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(Aust, 1991)

CAST: Sam Neill, Zoe Carides, John Clarke, Yvonne Lawley, Nick Lathouris, Nicholas Papademetriou, Yanni Voulgaris, Boris Brkic, Deborah Kennedy

PRODUCER: Timothy White

DIRECTOR: John Ruane

SCRIPT: John Ruane (novel by Boyd Oxlade)


EDITOR: Neil Thumpston

MUSIC: Phil Judd, Peter Volaris


RUNNING TIME: 109 minutes

PRESENTATION: Widescreen; 1:85:1

SPECIAL FEATURES: 2 disc collectors edition. Disc 1: audio commentary by Sam Neill, John Clarke; audio commentary with director John Ruane and cinematographer Ellery Ryan; trailer. Disc 2: cast and crew featurette with interviews with John Clarke, Zoe Carides, John Ruane, Boris Brkic, Chris Kennedy (48 minutes); deleted scenes (22 mins); two documentaries on Sam Neill and John Clarke (from The Grass is Greener series) featuring footage from the film (44 mins)

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Umbrella Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: November 3, 2007

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