Urban Cinefile
"I told them not to be shy about making fun of me because, of course, they must have been on a very precarious perch"  -John Malkovich on the making of Being John Malkovich
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet  

Search SEARCH FOR A REVIEW
Our Review Policy OUR REVIEW POLICY
Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE

Help/Contact

ERSKINEVILLE KINGS

SYNOPSIS:
Barky (Marty Deniss) 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?

"Hard hitting, yet surprisingly subtle, Alan Whiteís debut feature Erskineville Kings is 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, with great pains taken 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. The weaknesses lie mostly in the script, which is under-developed. Some of the charactersí complexities could have been brought to life in richer detail. But 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. Jackman 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."
Louise Keller

"There are so many promising and valuable elements in Erskineville Kings itís a real pity that the film doesnít quite match up to them as a whole. Whiteís eye for cinematic language is astute, although sometimes he seems to have got off on the novelty of making a 90 minute work instead of his usual 90 second tvcs. Shot for contrast, his obliging cinematographer John Swaffield has used morning and afternoon sunlight unremittingly, and frequently inserted architecture-against-blue-sky-with-power-lines shots to build up our sense of Erskineville. And not bad, for all their vaguely contrived feel. Excellent mood and feel with some heartfelt dialogue and the kind of naturalistic performances that propelled films like Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, Erskineville Kings only lacks one thing to make it great: more work on the script. Another few drafts would have helped percolate some of its elements into a better, more satisfying emotional brew. As it stands, it lacks a payoff for the audience, and despite enjoying it, I canít help feeling dissatisfied by it. But to be fair, Alan White has achieved what he set out to do: portray the Australian male reluctance at genuine communication, using the film itself as an example of it."
Andrew L. Urban

"The 'traditional' Australian maleís way of dealing with crisis (read: going to the pub) is the centrepiece of Alan Whiteís powerful new film. But donít make the mistake of thinking the film is emotionally empty as a result. Years of tension, resentment and recrimination between two brothers explode in a stuffy room on a hot afternoon, leading to one of the most satisfying Australian films of the year. OK, itís been done before and the allusions to other films are many - Twelve Angry Men and Dog Day Afternoon are two cited by the director himself - and itís thematically similar to Radiance. But to go this deeply into the Aussie male psyche in the late 1990ís is a new and worthwhile experience. Erskineville Kings is not an in-your-face film - at least initially. The drama builds slowly over the course of one crucial day in the characters' lives. This, of course, couldnít be pulled off without talented cast; and White has assembled a terrific one. The brothers, played by Marty Denniss and Hugh Jackman, take most of the screen time. Both give mighty performances - Denniss as the more sensitive Barky and Jackman (playing against type a little) as the gruff and stoic Wace. The supporting cast includes Aaron Blabey, Joel Edgerton and Leah Vandenberg in the small but significant role of Lanny. The film looks great, capturing precisely the depressed mood of a decaying inner-city locale - and you can almost feel the heat as the characters traipse the streets and play pool in a stuffy back room at the pub. This is a rewarding and honest new Australian film - donít stay away from this one."
David Edwards

Email this article

CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 1

Read Andrew L. Urban's interview with
HUGH JACKMAN & ALAN WHITE

ERSKINEVILLE KINGS(M15+)
(AUS)

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

PRODUCERS: Alan White, Julio Caro

DIRECTOR: Alan White

SCRIPT: Anik Chooney

CINEMATOGRAPHER: John Swaffield

EDITOR: Jane Moran

MUSIC: Don Miller Robinson

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Andrew Horne

RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Palace

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 23, 1999 (Syd, Melb, Perth)

VIDEO RELEASE: February 8, 2000

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Home Entertainment







© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2017