A series of snapshots inside the Homicide, Vice and Drug squads of a city like Melbourne, revealing the psychoses of heavy duty police work - and the blurring of lines between right/wrong, law/expediency, loyalty/betrayal, professionalism/self-seeking - and love/hate. The central figure is Homicide detective JJ Wilson (Belinda McClory), obsessed with catching a serial abuser and killer of children, with her partner Robbie Walsh (John Brumpton). Their work crosses paths with Drug squad detectives Rix Dixakos (Damien Richardson) and Maxie Mallesson (James Young), a couple of young but already badly corrupted officers who think nothing of loading up a petty crim. The third police duo is CIB detectives Hill (Frank Magree) and Fry (Peter Docker) who use their street authority to coerce two young women into sex. Wilson, under intense pressure from within the force, believes she is getting close, but there is something wrong with the way her closest colleagues are behaving . . .
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
I am really glad that Redball has finally been released on DVD. This is one of the finest examples of high quality, low budget Australian genre filmmaking. My only gripe is that Fox has hidden the excellent special features inside the audio selection, not inside the special features sub-menu. This wouldn't matter so much if it was more clearly labelled. And to make matters worse, when you click on the director's commentary option you are taken back to the previous menu, which is confusing.
But the payoff is well and truly worth the hassle, as director Jon Hewitt and some of the cast sit down in a Kings Cross facility to record the loose and relaxed commentary. One of the first things Hewitt relates is how he gathered stories that eventually fed into this film when as a young man he was living near a large Melbourne police station. Hence the veracity, of course. We also learn how much of the film's style is influenced by David Fincher's Se7en. Except in this low budget case, instead of degrading 35 mm film in post, it was shot on home video stock and transferred... and there is more of this sort of information throughout the track.
An incisive, decisive and concise film about working and living in the belly of the police beast, Redball is as effective in its own narrowly defined genre of police flicks as anything a cashed up American filmmaker would deliver. Better than many, in fact, with its superb cast and searing script, bold original music (and great soundtrack, too) and dynamic structure.
Thematically, it is a shattering indictment of modern police culture - and not the obvious corruption angle, but how the work degrades even the most idealistic cop seeking genuine law enforcement outcomes. Crime and law enforcement, moral right and wrong have fused into one ugly twin, and there is enough credence to the incidents to make it perhaps the scariest film I've seen for a long time.
It has angered Victorian police, which is not a surprising reaction, but it is not the one that's most appropriate. Nor should a police force feel singled out: this is a case of seeing 'through the particular into the general': it's showing us a universal malaise. Made on a small budget, Redball sizzles with style, prickles with tension and hums with twisted humanity. Hewitt achieves his objective and tells his story forcefully, engagingly and with plenty of cinematic flair.
Redball is unquestionably an important film, both as cinema and as social statement. See it and weep.
And if you want to know how he did it - from development to distribution - take his 90 minute film school course on the second commentary track. It's an "honest and transparent" exposition of low budget filmmaking in all its glory - and gory. He emphasises the point that Redball was made for a cash outlay of $6,000. And he tells exactly how that was done and how that enabled him to raise the substantial post production budget of over $300,000. For budding filmmakers, it's worth more than the cost of the DVD; indeed, for anyone interested or involved in the Australian filmmaking community, it's obligatory.
October 13, 2005
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REDBALL: DVD (MA)
CAST: Belinda McClory, John Brumpton, Frank Magree, Peter Docker, Anthea Davis, Neil Pigot, Damien Richardson, James Young, Robert Morgan, Paulene Terry-Beitz,
PRODUCER: Meredith King, Phillip Parslow
DIRECTOR: John Hewitt
SCRIPT: John Hewitt
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Mark Pugh
EDITOR: Alan Woodruff, Cindy Clarkson
MUSIC: Neil McGrath
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Vanessa Cerne
RUNNING TIME: 91 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Palace
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 29, 1999
PRESENTATION: Widescreen; DD
SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentary track with director and cast; commentary track '90 Minute Film School' by Jon Hewitt; Japanese trailer; theatrical trailer; photo gallery; filmographies
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox HE
DVD RELEASE: September 28, 2005