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CROP, THE

SYNOPSIS:
Ron 'Blade' Gillette (George Elliot) runs a strip club in the 80s, and when random breath testing is introduced in Australia, his takings plummet as patrons take to smoking dope and drinking water as they perve on the girls on stage. With debts to pay and cops to pay off, Blade and his mate Wack (Rhys Muldoon) decide to become farmers: growing marijuana on the country property owned by the father of Blade's girlfriend, Geraldine (Holly Brisley). Blade borrows cash for the seeds from loan shark Wally (Bruce Venebales) but when crooked cops steal the buds they're back to square one. Unless they can steal them right back.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Considerably better than several recent Australian comedies, The Crop is entertaining enough and succeeds on its own terms, as a crim-com with a recognisably Australian spirit of larrikinism, corrupt police and good hearted sheilas. Or at least one good hearted sheila, Holly Brisley's excellent creation of Geraldine, the girl who is a good mate in every sense to low key anti hero Blade. Kelly Butler's Jacki is not so good hearted, a shrieking mass of insecurities and jealousies who provides the running gag light relief as she imagines every woman stalking her boyfriend, Wack (Rhys Muldoon).

George Elliot, the writer of the script and driver of the project, is a self made man who raised the money for his film privately, and while he hasn't been able to afford major stars, he had the good sense to hire some darned good crew to make a film that has as much commercial prospect as any other Australian film of late. His performance as Blade is not half bad either, a muted characterisation that works by its understatement. The script, while never pushing the envelope of originality, has some effectively humorous lines of dialogue, and the structure is accessibly recognisable.

Old pros like Bruce Venables and Tony Barry earn their pay with characters that fill out their scripted limitations with acting muscle, while Vincent Stone's Dago is the handy wild card in the screenplay, the unpredictable element that carries the payoff.

Excellent camera work and a solid soundtrack (including a couple of songs performed by Elliot himself) give the film a polished feel. While never quite as funny as we might want, The Crop is notable for its pace and its controlled direction, mostly keeping the performances grounded in its own reality.

Review by Richard Kuipers:
With the notable exception of Gettin' Square and Fat Pizza (yes, Fat Pizza!), it's been a miserable couple of years for Australian comedies and The Crop is the latest casualty. A comic thriller with only the barest modicum of laughs and no suspense, it's sad to say that this looks dead on arrival on local screens.

The problems are myriad but most crippling is the clunky screenplay by writer/executive producer/star George Elliot. Ostensibly about a couple of knockabout blokes who decide to grow dope and sell it in their bar to booze-shy customers, the story veers off on dozens of detours and never comes close to reaching the destination promised in the set-up.

Coupled with a grinding succession of unfunny gags and performances pitched mostly on the level of community theatre, The Crop doesn't even have the smarts to propel the exploits of its dumb and dumber protagonists into full-blown gross-out territory, where it might have picked up a few chuckles. Elliot, who is the successful author of two novels and a one-time race car champion, lacks the acting skills to carry off leading man duties here. Stocky and rather flat as a performer, his big-screen debut is marked by a valiant effort to turn Blade into a loveable larrikin but inexperience poses odds he's unable to overcome.

Of the supporting cast, only Holly Brisley emerges from the mire, injecting her clever cookie character with a spunky vitality. Produced on an obviously tiny budget, The Crop throws in crooked cops, stoned-out dope-growing 'experts', a loner with a gun, a pre-op transsexual choreographer and a dicky-eyed moneylender to little comic effect. This forced and overplayed affair will have a tough time attracting customers through the turnstile and represents an unhappy second feature film assignment for director Scott Patterson, whose barely-seen 1999 debut A Wreck, A Tangle displayed genuine flair for character and off-beat comedy. In fairness to Patterson it should be noted that he was drafted into this film a week after the commencement of principal photography and has done the best that might be expected with such meagre resources at his disposal.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 1

GEORGE ELLIOT INTERVIEW

TRAILER

THE CROP (M)
(Aust)

CAST: George Elliot, Holly Brisley, Rhys Muldoon, Kelly Butler, Vincent Stone, Bruce Venables, Yahnee Stroet, Rudi Baker, Sam O'Dell, Tony Barry, Geoffrey Rezek, Rob Steele

PRODUCER: David Wood

DIRECTOR: Scott Patterson

SCRIPT: George Elliot

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Roger Lanser ACS

EDITOR: Tim Wellburn

MUSIC: Subvision

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Darrell Lass

RUNNING TIME: 104 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Elliot Brothers Distrib (through Roadshow)

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 19, 2004







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