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SPANK!

SYNOPSIS:
Nice guy Paulie (Robert Mammone) returns from a three year stint in an Italian monastery and learns his old mates, Nick (Mario Gamma) and Vinny (Checc Musolino), have hatched a plan to start their own cafe in the city's premier slinky cafe strip. Vinny's lady, Tina (Lucia Mastrantone), bankrolls their plans, but they can't find a building. Enter local rich kid, Rocky Vince Poletto), who uses his influence as Power of Attorney over his sick father's construction empire to evict a couple from their restaurant virtually overnight. He hands the building over, for a fifteen- percent share in Nick and Vinny's planned utlra-hot cafe. Rocky’s Australian girlfriend, Jo (Victoria Dixon-Whittle), sees the street-power go to Rocky's head as he takes over the venture with disastrous results.

"With a promising start, as the camera tracks along the city’s funky café street at knee-height under a high energy music score, Spank! meanders between an occasional socially acute observation and half-baked farce, its true comedic elements wanting to burst out – but hardly ever managing to. Although there are redeeming aspects in the first half, Spank! starts to run out of both invention and tension half way through, when it becomes evident that the script needed more work to realise its potential. More ideas, more development, more substance. Comedy needs a ballast. One of the other problems that impede the film’s audience-pleasing qualities is Poletto’s over-large performance, which director Ernie Clark ought to have restrained. It doesn’t fit with either Victoria Dixon-Whittle’s well balanced portrait of Jo, nor Mammone’s ultra-restrained creation of the Paulie character, who ends up frustrating us with his undeveloped dimension. Venturini, however, gives a high-spirited performance as Ang (reminsicent of Cuba Gooding jnr in Jerry McGuire) and the film manages to establish its milieu very well, using effective music and sound design. There is a slim chance that young audiences, especially Italians, will take to the film’s stereotype-driven fun."
Andrew L. Urban

"Bursting with flair and hip vitality, Spank! is a vibrant, colourful slice of life, set in multi-cultural Adelaide; it oozes charm, but is let down by its plot holes and lack of direction. The film has a great look – it is buzzing with energy and boasts an engaging soundtrack, which marries toe-tapping jazz influences with rock, contempo tunes and even opera. The camera takes a keen, observant look at the environment and the locals – almost documentary style at times. We meet bright, fun characters: some are realistic, some caricatures. There are the dark-suited gangs, who constantly refer to their 'business meetings'; the battlers and the survivors. The locations are delightful – street scenes, a plush mansion and the central bar where most of the action takes place, whose smoky atmosphere is tangible. You really get a sense of being there. At times, you could be watching a video clip. There's a lot about Spank! to enjoy. That's probably why it is possible to forgive many of its flaws. The plot starts well, but meanders into dullsville. It goes around in circles and doesn't find direction. The characters are often superficial, which stops us from caring too much about them. Vince Poletto's Rocky is annoyingly overdone, suffering severely from over-kill, while Robert Mammone's nicely restrained romantic lead borders on being tedious and less than charismatic. By contrast, performances by Lucia Mastrantone and Victoria Dixon-Whittle are engaging and alluring: the strength comes from the women's accomplishments. For a high energy trip with plenty of slick visuals, Spank! is a fun encounter with a hip heart."
Louise Keller

"It's sad but true: Australian film comedy is in a regressive state. You can't go further than Spank in order to confirm this regrettable facet of our culture. It begins at a low point and then proceeds to deteriorate from there. One can't even begin to imagine how this cliched and obnoxious film ever got funding. After all, it all begins with the script, and the script for Spank is beyond amateur. Characters are clearly underdeveloped and their sole purpose is to reinforce cultural stereotypes. Surely, Australian cinema has learnt to adopt a mature approach to this country's ethnic diversity, but there's no evidence of that here. It's a film about loudmouthed Italians who are sexist, misogynist oafs. And this is what passes for humour? It claims to be satire, but any attempt at self-mocking on the filmmakers' part is boorish and unintelligent. Director Ernie Clark has little idea of subtlety, and his direction is all over the place, not to mention the excessive performances he gets from his unfortunate cast. I'm sure that Vince Poletto is a talented actor, but so far, he has given woeful performances in Sally Marshall Is Not An Alien, and here, as a kind of dumb thug. His performance is hackneyed and ridiculously over-the-top. His supporting cast comes off as poorly. From an inane script comes a film that will do nothing to enhance the image of Australian men, especially in a dumb movie such as this where character is left struggling for depth, and the film itself waddles to a dead crawl. It's a film with nowhere to go, and one desperately in search of both ideas and a true sense of comedy. Spank has none of these, and will find it impossible to find an audience."
Paul Fischer

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 2
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SOFCOM MOVIE TIMES

SPANK! (M 15+)
(Australia)

CAST: Vince Poletto, Victoria Dixon-Whittle, Robert Mammone, Mario Gamma, Lucia Matsrantone, Checc Musolino, Marco P Venturini, Simon Gligora, Alex Blias, Charlotte Rees, Nic Hurcombe, Maris J Caune, Rosalba Clemente

DIRECTOR: Ernie Clark

PRODUCER: David Lightfoot

SCRIPT: David Farrell, David Lightfoot

CINEMATOGRAPHER: David Foreman

EDITOR: Edward McQueen-Mason

MUSIC: Sean Timms

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Aphrodite Kondos

RUNNING TIME: 89 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Palace Films

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 10, 1999 (Adelaide; other states to follow)







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