Lebanese Australian John Morkos (George Basha) is released from prison intent on a new life, but he finds his younger brother, Charlie (Firass Dirani), being lured by the local underworld, and keeping bad company at high school. George's demands to stay clear of crime fall on deaf ears. In the thrall of gang leader Zeus (Ali Haidar), Charlie's life oscillates between the schoolyard punch-ups and the gangland streets of his neighbourhood. When John meets Sydney (Clare Bowen), a local Aussie girl, and finds a job at the local boxing gym, his life is challenged in unexpected ways. Meanwhile, Charlie's continuing descent into the world of crime places the his whole family in harm's way forcing John to risk his new life to right his younger brother's wrong.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The Combination tackles issues relevant to Australian society through a story about one family - the kind of film Australians should be making more often. Touching on - and holding up for serious discussion - the various aspect of urban multicultural society, George Basha's script is built on the solid foundations of observation and personal experience. And it is driven by an evident desire to bring to the surface a swag of issues that are at the root of conflicts between Lebanese Australians, who 'came in planes' as one character puts it, and Australian who 'came in chains' as another quips back.
Basha takes on the central role, which is apt since it is his voice that we hear, his point of view that is argued. And it's argued well, in a strong, well crafted cinematic story from actor turned director David Field, working with a terrific team of filmmakers - and a great cast.
Basha is totally convincing, and Clare Bowen is a welcome new face as Sydney, the Aussie girl whose parents (John Brumpton, Ruth McGowan, both excellent) represent the knee jerkers who take one look at John and label him a Muslim - and thus an 'other' who is 'not like us'. In fact, he is a Christian, like most Lebanese, but this sort of ignorance is not exclusive to white bread Australians. Doris Younane is superb as John's mother, Mary, creating a multi faceted character we can understand and Firass Dirani is impressive as the younger brother, Charlie, whose lack of respect for his older brother ignites a fire that gets out of control.
Michael Denka as underworld boss Ibo is also tops, a well judged characterisation which - like everyone else - avoids caricature and simplification. Hats off to the entire team and to David Field for his mature and intelligent direction of this gripping and relevant drama.
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COMBINATION, THE (M)
CAST: George Basha, Firass Dirani, Doris Younane, Clare Bowen, Michael Denkha, Vaughan White, Ali Haidar, Katrina Risteska, Greg Webb, Daniel Webber, Tyrone Lindquist, Michael Farah, Rahel Abdulrahman, John Brumpton, Ruth McGowan
PRODUCER: John Perrie
DIRECTOR: David Field
SCRIPT: George Basha
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Toby Oliver
EDITOR: Ken Sallows
MUSIC: Labbib Jammal
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Xanthe Highfield
RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Australian Film Syndicate
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 26, 2009