UNDER THE RADAR
Brandon (Nathan Phillips) absolutely lives for the surf. Too bad for him, an unfortunate episode of surf rage has him miles from the beach, doing community service at a home for the variously disabled. He meets Adrian (Clayton Watson), who suffers from a rare condition of short term memory loss after a terrible childhood accident, and the cerebral palsied but mentally alert Trevor (Steady Eddy). Brandon, ever the fun lover and thrill seeker, proposes to matron that a day of surfing would do the patients good and takes the two lads along, only to get embroiled in a case of inter-gang warfare over a haul of drugs. And a dead body.
Review by Louise Keller:
Don't be misled by the picture of a surfboard in the key art for Under The Radar, which promotes the film as a surfing comedy. The only surfing sequence is at the beginning of the film, and apart from the fact that the central character is a surfing-mad rebel, director Evan Clarry's film is a drama into which black comedy elements have been injected. As for the title, it was only after I had read the production notes that I understood its relevance: the characters need to lie low (or stay 'under the radar') in order to reach their destination of the beach.
Clarry's energetic debut film Blurred engaged us with its contagious vitality as we explored the window between school days and adulthood. Under The Radar is less successful in that the film never seems confident of the genre. The attempts at black humour fall flat with lines like 'We're going to be killed by bad suit-wearing mafia wannabes...' and 'Maybe it's dead (referring to a bull in a paddock) ...bulls sleep when they're standing; perhaps it died in its sleep.' Clarry has such a natural strength in delivering straight comedy, and it is apparent from the music score, which plays like the drum roll before the punch-line is delivered, that he is keen for us to view the film in that light.
The storyline has promise with a diverse bunch of characters that range from a bad-boy surfing champ, a do-gooder with a 10 minute memory span, a mischief maker and a reformed thug's girlfriend. There are a bunch of hoods who are all dressed in black, which is helpful, because it identifies them as the baddies.
Nathan Phillips is well cast as the rebellious surf-crazy Brandon, while Clayton Watson (The Kid in Matrix Reloaded) convinces as Adrian, who records every event in his life in bid to make sure he can later remember it. Watson hits all the right notes as far as tone is concerned, and it's through his character that we experience some kind of emotional connection. And for the most part, stand-up comic Steady Eddy (he really does suffer from cerebral palsy) manages the role of Trevor very well. The balance between being daringly funny and being made fun of is a delicate thing, and crossing the line can be fatal.
There's little tension in the lead up to the gun fire and violence and often the film's structure is confusing with its flashbacks that require a circular structure. I wanted to like the film more; all I was left with were memories of a few good ideas and a black-comedy wannabe.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Young Queensland filmmaker Evan Clarry showed a natural cinematic talent with his debut teen comedy road movie, Blurred, and producer Chris Brown rightly wanted to take Clarry further and helped produce his second film, Under The Radar. This film is again aimed at a young market, although not exclusively, and the casting of Nathan Phillips ensures that the lead character has oodles of credibility. Brandon is an irreverent young larrikin with a heart of gold, and Phillips nails him, giving us a wholly rounded character with whom to undertake this escapade. He is the film's saviour.
Phillips is ably supported, especially by Steady Eddy, Chloe Maxwell and the gangster cast which makes the most of their opportunities, but it's on his shoulders that the film rests. It is through him we participate, and in whom we believe.
Clarry's storytelling structure is less successful, choosing to use two major flashback blocks to invert the linear plot. This doesn't come off smoothly. (At one stage I thought the reels had been mixed up.) There is also discordant unevenness - almost conflicting - about the tone of the film, making the audience uneasy about some of the violence in the context of its comedic sensibilities, and confused about the drama. The night scene where the three black-garbed hoods have a discussion prior to the anticipated murder of our heroes is clearly a specific tribute to Tarantino, but it just doesn't quite come off, and seems forced. Perhaps this is the scene that demonstrates the difference between homage and attempted emulation . . .
These are distracting flaws, and while the craft side of the filmmaking is generally stylish and smooth, a couple of noticeable continuity gaffs undermine the impact: in the opening sequence, the amnesia-afflicted Adrian (Clayton Watson) is roughed up and has the special advisory note-tag around his neck yanked off. In the continuing scene that follows, it is still around his neck and is a significant prop. In a later scene, Brandon's special necklace is seen inside then outside his T shirt. This may seem like nitpicking, but this is the special necklace with great sentimental and symbolic value, being his first ever surfing prize, at the age of 12.
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NATHAN PHILLIPS INTERVIEW
UNDER THE RADAR (M)
CAST: Nathan Phillips, Clayton Watson, Steady Eddy, Chloe Maxwell, Robert Menzies, Syd Brisbane, Teo Gebert, Damien Garvey, Gyton Grantley, Robert Rabiah, Rory Williamson
PRODUCER: Chris Brown, Christopher Fitchett
DIRECTOR: Evan Clarry
SCRIPT: Steve Pratt
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Philip M. Cross
EDITOR: Antonio Mestres
MUSIC: David Thrussell & Grancois Tetaz
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Deorgina Greenhill
RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hoyts
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 29, 2004
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Col TriStar Entertainment
VIDEO RELEASE: December 15, 2004