Spasm (Sean Kennedy), Poker (Richard Wilson) and Blue Flame (Ho Thi Lu) are high school students in the West of Sydney who are skateboard fanatics; they're the Deck Dogz. Spasm, who has a flair for animating flip books, wants to be a professional skater, but has no support from his single parent dad. His two friends, however, believe Spasm can make his mark. Determined to find a way to the far-off Beach Bowl skating event to be hosted by world champion Tony Hawk, the three friends set off on a long cross-city trip, to be held up by a couple of young drug dealers, as well as the cops who are after them for burning down part of their school.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Real filmmaking talent shines through, no matter what the film's subject or its target audience, and Deck Dogz, while aimed at teenagers whose jargon needs translating, is clear evidence of such talent in Steven Pasvolsky, a 2001 AFTRS producing graduate, with Honours. His graduating short, Inja, was nominated for an Oscar in 2002.
Deck Dogz shimmers with style, but always in the service of story and character. Stabs of animation add perfectly apposite texture, the music bounces off the street and the performances are genuine.
The story is relatively simple and not entirely original, but it's told in an original way and with great energy. Even if you miss some of the argot, you won't miss any of the emotional arcs or the character elements. The three Dogz are each different and unique; the wanna-be hanger on, who desperately wants to be a Dog but can hardly stand up on a skateboard, plays a prominent role in reflecting the maturity that the boys acquire through their short but eventful journey across the city.
Authority figures like parents and the police are portrayed with a mix of ridicule and appeasement, and there is a mild romantic undercurrent to warm up the action. The screenplay never patronises the boys and the tempestuous energy of youth is remarkably well captured cinematically.
It's a joy to see exuberant cinema in Australian hands.
Review by Louise Keller:
High-flying skateboarding action and a fast-paced story about three teens from dysfunctional families pursuing their dreams, Deck Dogz is rebellion on skates. In his debut feature film, writer/director Steve Pasvolsky sucks us into an adrenaline-filled world where three friends who live and breathe the lifestyle. Hand-held cinematography with wide-angled lens, rhythmic editing and a rush of a funky music puts us in the mood, but it's the truthful portrayal of the relationships that is at the film's heart. These are friends with common goals, who channel their energies through their skill on skateboards. They leap over cars, slide down stair rails, speed down city streets. They are fearless, exuberant and bursting with energy.
Pasvolsky, whose short film Inja was nominated for an Academy Award in 2002, embraces the skating world with passion and style. Whether you understand the lingo or skate-speak is beside the point, the reverberation and connection between the friends is a universal language. Producers Jennifer Cluff and Bill Bennett encouraged Pasvolsky to take risks, and the result is a refreshing, high-speed original film that stimulates and thrills.
Of course the authenticity of the world relies on the skating sequences and the combination of actors who can skate with skaters who can act, brings satisfying results. Sean Kennedy has great appeal as Spasm (so-called after his skating move) in his debut film; Spasm's dreams of being a pro-skater are fuelled by his fantasy alter-ego, a skate-dog that resembles his loving, hairy canine Gonz. He sketches the dog on yellow post-it note pads, and brings the drawings to life by using them as flip-books. Richard Wilson's bad-boy Poker and skater Ho Thi Lu's Vietnamese homeboy rapper add to the dynamics, and the relationship between the three is a tangible web of teenage angst. Skateboard fans will be keen to see 12-times world champ skater Tony Hawk in action, adding yet an extra layer of authenticity to the storyline.
Shot in Sydney and Adelaide, the script is careful to keep the locations generic, with references to 'the city' and 'the beach' rather than specifically named areas. It's therefore commendable that the film has a real sense of place - from the deserted suburban streets from where the boys begin their journey to the Sydney city scraper skyline shot through park and bushland areas.
Deck Dogz is an original that pulsates with gritty energy. There's humour, drama and plenty of skating action, ready to inspire and fuel dreams.
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DECK DOGZ (M)
CAST: Tony Hawk, Sean Kennedy, Richard Wilson, Ho Thi Lu, Brendan Cowell, Micthell McMahon, Thomas Campbell, Glenda Liscott, Philip Dodd, Anthony Cogin, Alyssa McClelland, Danielle Rohweder, Mat Burn, Bob Baines
PRODUCER: Bill Bennett, Jennifer Cluff
DIRECTOR: Steven Pasvolsky
SCRIPT: Steven Pasvolsky
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Denson Baker
EDITOR: Jane Moran
MUSIC: Johnny Klimek, Reinhold Heil
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Sam Hobbs
RUNNING TIME: 88 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 6, 2005