A Critical Review of…

Under the Radar

http://www.qwipster.net/undertheradar.jpg

 

 

 

“If they do ever make it to the beach they’ll have to be quick, stick together and stay Under the Radar.”

 

 

 

Written by Miranda Meidlinger

MCC 231 – Australia Cinema

Garry Gillard


Part One:

Film Information

 

Cast

Crew

Production

Distribution

Release Dates

Additional Film Information

At the Box Office

Awards and Nominations

Bibliography of Reviews

Online Presence

Interviews with the Cast and Crew


Cast

Brandon                    Nathan Phillips

Adrian                       Clayton Watson

Trevor                        Chris “Steady Eddy” Widdows

Jo                                Chloe Maxwell

Ched                                   Robert Menzies

Garry                          Syd Brisbane

Trent                          Gyton Grantley

Ash                             Teo Gebert

Gene                                   Damien Garvey

Mario                         Robert Rabiah

Lee                              Steve Mouzakis

Ricardo                      Rory Williamson

Maxine                      Marg Downey

 

 

 

 

Crew

Director                              Evan Clarry

Writer                                  Steve Pratt

Producers                           Chris Brown

                                             Christopher Fitchett

Executive Producers        Poise Graeme-Evans

                                             Jennie Hughes

Co-Producers                    Tom Hoffie

                                             Defrim Isai

Co-Executive Producers  Hugh Marks

                                             Kris Noble

Cinematography              Phillip M. Cross

 

Casting                                 Lynn Ruthven

Original Music                    Frank Tetaz

                                             David Thrussell

Film Editing                                 Antonio Mestres

Production Design              Georgina Greenhill

Set Decoration                     Brent Taylor

Art Direction                       Ken James

Costume Design                           Jason Gibaud

 

Make-up Artists                           Lea Dixon

                                             Sally Gordon

Hair Stylist                                   Lea Dixon

Production Manager            Annie McEvoy

 

 

Production

Macquarie Film Corporation

 

Cameraquip Australia

(Provided camera equipment)

 

 

Distributors

Hoyts Distribution

 

Col TriStar Entertainment

(Video Distributor)

 

 


Release Dates

France – 16 May 2004

         Cannes Film Market

Australia -29 July 2004

Hungary – 8 February 2008

         TV Premiere

 

Additional Film Information

Running Time: 95 minutes

Country: Australia

Language: English

Film Genre(s): Comedy / Thriller

Classification: M 15+

(Medium level violence, medium level coarse language and drug references)

Video/DVD Release Date: 15 December 2004

Budget: $130,000

Filming Locations: Gold Coast and Queensland, Australia

 

At the Box Office

The Most Popular Films for the Weekend of July 30-Aug 1, 2004 *

         Under the Radar ranked #12 – First week in Release

                  Made $93,387 over the weekend

                  Total to Date: $94,087

The Most Popular Films for the Week of July 29-Aug 4, 2004 *

         Under the Radar ranked #12 – First week in Release

                  Made $127,153 for the entire week

                  Total to Date: $127,853

 

Under the Radar only made the top 20 films during its first week of release.

* Numbers found on Urban Cinefile – The World of Film in Australia – on the Internet at: http://www.urbancinefile.com.au/home/boxoffice.asp

 


Awards and Nominations

Australian Screen Sound Guild – 2004

         Won

Best Achievement in Sound for a Feature Film – Sound Design

·    John Patterson

·    Nicholas Byrnes

·    Warren Pearson

·    Duncan McAllister

·    Helen Brown

·    Luke Young

Australian Film Institute - 2004

         Nominated

         Best Actress in a Leading Role

·    Chloe Maxwell

 

 


Bibliography of Reviews

Vince Leo

         Quipster’s Movie Reviews – 2005

         http://www.qwipster.net/undertheradar.htm

 

Louise Keller

         Urban Cinefile

         http://www.urbancinefile.com.au/home/view.asp?Article_ID=9190

 

Andrew L. Urban

         Urban Cinefile

http://www.urbancinefile.com.au/home/view.asp?Article_ID=9190

 

David Stratton

         At the Movies

         29 July 2004

         http://www.abc.net.au/atthemovies/txt/s1161828.htm

 

Colette Corr

         Internet Movie Database

         22 December 2004

         http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0352951/usercomments

 

Barry Duffield

         Internet Movie Database

         4 February 2007

         http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0352951/usercomments

 

Barry Sumpter

         Internet Movie Database

         15 January 2007

         http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0352951/usercomments

 

Bernard Hemingway

         Cinephilia

http://www.cinephilia.net.au/show_detailed_review.php?movieid=2326&link=australia

 

Collin Fraser

         Movie Review

         http://www.moviereview.com.au/cfundertheradar.html

 

Carmine Pascuzzi

         Media Search

http://www.mediasearch.com.au/film/filmreviews/undertheradar-review

 

Christina Bruce

            Search SA Communications

            http://www.searchsa.com.au/review/Movie_Review.asp?id=71

 

Clint Morris

         Web Wombat – Movie Hole

http://www.webwombat.com.au/entertainment/movies/under-the-radar.htm

 

 

 


Online Presence

 

Under the Radar is a film that really stayed under the radar. There weren’t a lot of reviews of the movie from professional critics or regular audience reviews either. It was hard to find reviews that actually talked about the film and not just about Nathan Phillips. The reviews that I did put in the bibliography actually had commentary about the film itself. It seemed like most people thought that it was an alright movie, not really worth going to see it in the theaters but not tortuous. Most Australian (and non-Australian) film sites where reviews are posted said “no one has commented on this film, be the first one!”

Most of the cast don’t even have full pages on the Internet Movie Database. The film hardly said any of the bad guy’s names and it was hard to match the characters with the actor’s names.

I searched everywhere for reviews in print and could not find any. Not many people have seen this movie and/or it wasn’t very popular. The film was nothing special to talk about so that is why I figured people didn’t really take the time to review it.

Websites which I found most helpful:

The Internet Movie Database:

            http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0352951/

 

The Cinematic Intelligence Agency (CIA):

http://thecia.com.au/reviews/u/under-the-radar.shtml

 

Urban Cinefile:

            http://www.urbancinefile.com.au/home/view.asp?Article_ID=9190

 

At the Movies (ABC):

http://www.abc.net.au/atthemovies/txt/s1161828.htm

 

The Australian Film Commission:

http://www.afc.gov.au/filmsandawards/recentfilms/cannes04/feature_123.aspx

 

All Movie:

            http://www.allmovie.com/cg/avg.dll?p=avg&sql=1:311685~T0

 


Interviews with the Cast and Crew

 

Nathan Phillips

         Urban Cinefile

         29 July 2004

         http://www.urbancinefile.com.au/home/view.asp?Article_ID=9182

 

Urban Clarry

         At the Movies – with interviewer Margaret Pomeranz

            http://www.abc.net.au/atthemovies/txt/s1163750.htm

 

Chloe Maxwell

         Web Wombat – Movie Hole

http://www.webwombat.com.au/entertainment/movies/chloe-maxwell_int.htm

 

Nathan Phillips

Producers’ and Directors’ Guild of Victoria – with interviewer Emma Flanagan

         25 July 2004

            http://www.pdgv.com.au/news/2004-07-26_00.html

 

Behind the Scenes

Interviews with Chris Brown (Producer), Nathan Phillips (Brandon), Chris Fitchett (Producer), Clayton Watson (Adrian), Chris “Steady Eddy” Widdows (Trevor), Evan Clarry (Director), and Chloe Maxwell (Jo)

Special Features on the Under the Radar DVD

 


Part Two:

Critical Review of Film and its Literature

 

Plot

Synopsis

Critical Uptake

Circumstances of Production

Prior Works

Under the Radar and Australian Film

Film Genres

 


Plot

 

Brandon, a man that lives to surf, ends up overreacting when someone “drops on” his wave. This little episode causes him to get sentenced to a do a good behavior bond at a home far from any beaches. While at this special home he meets a few interesting people named Adrian and Trevor. Adrian was in a terrible accident as a kid which has caused severe brain damage. He no longer has a short term memory. Brandon is dying not being able to enter in this upcoming surfing contest so he configures a plan to get out of the home by taking Adrian and Trevor to the beach for a day. Their adventure to the beach has begun and on their way they picked up Jo, a girl with a story behind her. While headed to the coast they end up getting lost and running into a couple of gang members doing something they weren’t suppose to see which causes them heaps of trouble. Adrian with his memory loss does not help their cause when being questioned by the gang; Trevor doesn’t have the steadiest of hands to be holding a spear gun; Brandon just doesn’t know when to be quiet; oh man, this trip to the beach is destined to be doomed unless they all can manage to stay Under the Radar.

 


Synopsis

 

The beginning of Under the Radar basically starts towards the end of the movie when the audience sees this man, Adrian (Clayton Watson), frantically running away from someone, the bad gang, and eating pieces of paper from a book. The audience has no clue what is going on but what they do not realize is that Adrian has no clue what he is running from either. You get to see Adrian taping the events that are happening with a tape recorder and you probably wonder who would be randomly carrying one of those around. Adrian runs away chewing the paper up, and eventually gets hit by the bad guys car door, he gets knocked down and taken into the one of the farm buildings. The main man, Ched (Robert Menzies), starts questioning Adrian and asks “who sent you?” It is obvious to the audience that he is no condition to be part of a gang, because he is constantly coughing and popping pills for his heart. Adrian answers his question with “I don’t know” the gang figures out from the note around his neck that he has a condition that causes him to not remember anything short term. They put him in a sleeper hold so he falls asleep; meanwhile, his tape recorder in Adrian’s pocket is still recording.

One fellow comes into the farm building and tries to trick Adrian into telling him who sent him here by pretending to be his best mate. Adrian just looks at him confused and doesn’t fall for his trickery. Brandon (Nathan Phillips) gets brought in for interrogation and the gang members eventually recognize him as a local surfer. It’s too bad that gangsters don’t like surfers; they just thought he was a no-good bum.

Ched is alone with Adrian and Brandon and he starts to have one of his coughing episodes. Ched goes to take his last pill and it falls out of the container on to the ground by Brandon’s feet. Brandon tries to help him but ends up just smashing the pill with the leg of the chair. Ched falls to the ground, has a heart attack and dies.

Brandon starts talking to Adrian and Adrian says “can I ask you something?” Brandon says “I bet you want to know how we got here.” This is where the movie cuts to the beginning when Brandon didn’t even know Adrian. Brandon was in the ocean catching some major waves when someone “drops on” his wave to cause him to get knocked off his board and hit in the head by it. Brandon gets full of surfers-rage and goes up to the bloke that did this and starts to beat him up, not realizing that it was a young kid with Down syndrome. As soon as he realizes this he stops and knows that this is going to get him into some trouble. He was sentenced by a judge to do a few months of community service at a disabilities home in order to serve his good behavior bond.

The McCormack House: Special Residence is far from any wave or beach, Brandon looks at this sentence as a joke and doesn’t really take it seriously. All Brandon cares about it is the surf and being able to smoke some “cones.”

At the home he meets a young intelligent man named Adrian. Maxine (Marg Downey) is the person in charge of all the people at the home, she tells Brandon about Adrian’s condition and how he has figured out how to deal with it. Adrian writes down important events into his diaries and records things on a tape recorder so he can remember later. He has recurring amnesia and his memory can only last 10-30 minutes depending on how much stress he is under. Pretty soon, after Adrian gets over the fact that Brandon stole some chocolate biscuits from the refrigerator, they sort of become friends.

One day Brandon and Adrian are talking in the recreation room when Trevor (Christopher “Steady Eddy” Widoows) comes over and starts complaining that he is put down again for kitchen duty. Trevor, a man with Servable Palsy, is always trying to trick Adrian in order to get out of his chores but he never is capable of succeeding.

Eventually Brandon gets the bright idea to tell Maxine that Adrian needs to get out of the home and go to the beach in order to resolve some issues that he has with his accident. She says yes and Trevor black mails Brandon in order to be able to go with them.

This is when their adventure begins, they pack up their stuff in Brandon’s car and Maxine strictly tells them that they must be back by the end of the day (as soon as she says that you know that they will be gone for longer than that). The story now cuts to the back to where it ended, in the farm building. Brandon and Adrian are tied up but Brandon is able to untie Adrian’s hands to set him free, he runs off as soon as he hears someone else coming into the building.

Brandon is still captured and one of Ched’s people is beating him up because he couldn’t find Adrian outside. All of a sudden Brandon sees a spear gun being aimed through the window and he immediately knew it was Trevor so he yells at him to shoot it. Trevor ends up shooting Ched’s guy in the leg. He comes in and tells Brandon that he was trying to aim for his butt, Brandon starts to freak out saying that Trevor could have killed him because at one point the gun was aimed at him. Mid-sentence, Trevor accidently shoots the gun in the middle of the neck and kills Ched’s guy.

Meanwhile, outside Adrian is running away when he sees a truck pulling up in front of him. At that moment he is tackled by a woman named Jo (Chloe Maxwell). Jo tries to calm Adrian down by telling him that she knows him. This is when the movie cuts back to where it ended in the beginning when he boys were on the road driving when they come across a pretty hitchhiker, Jo. The audience can tell that Jo has a story of her own because of her facial expressions and she has a cut on her eye brow.

Jo and Adrian, in the backseat, have a conversation about Adrian’s last real memory. Brandon has been trying to hit on Jo ever since they picked her up, including when they stop for a coffee. He tries to put down Adrian and his condition by saying that he has never even kissed a girl, not like he would remember if he did. He also said that Adrian would forget anniversaries anyways. However, Jo thinks that it would be romantic that every time he kissed a girl it would be like his very first kiss ever. Jo then goes up to Adrian and kisses him.

Trevor gets into Brandon’s car and starts driving it around in circles on the road. A cop sees him driving crazily and flashes her lights, he causes her to get run off the road and go into the ditch. This causes the group to head off the highway in a different direction than necessary to get to the beach. Brandon doesn’t seem too worried considering he is rolling a joint which he is about to smoke. Adrian takes a few hits off the cone and ends up getting so high that he kind of gets sick. Since Brandon wasn’t paying good attention they ended up going onto a road that leads to private property. They are forced to stop suddenly because they came across a broken down bridge; Adrian decides to get out to relieve himself. This is when he stumbles into something that causes a whole lot of trouble.

Two men have some rope and are trying to hide something in the river, Adrian tries to capture this crime scene by holding out his tape recorder. The bad guys end up hearing him and start chasing after him. Adrian gets back to the car panicking and totally freaking out. Brandon blows of Adrian’s allegations that he saw these two bad guys and decides to not leave right away. That is until their back window gets shot out.

Driving away as fast as they can Brandon, Trevor, Adrian, and Jo end up flying down this steep grassy hill in the car with the truck right behind them. The car gets stuck at the bottom of the hill and Adrian ends up getting out of the car right away when he sees the truck. He falls to the ground and chews up the last few pages from his diaries (if you haven’t noticed, we are now back to the beginning of the movie, Adrian is finally caught up on the situation). Cut to where the film ended, when Jo meets up with Adrian and fills him in on the details.

Trevor and Brandon are still together in the building when all of a sudden two new guys with black leather jackets walk in. One man shoots Brandon right in between his legs next to his “ding-dong.” Brandon starts talking right away about how the other guys were trying to hide something in the river so they take them there to find it. Brandon ends up finding a dead body, Ricardo (aka “Rick”)(Rory Williamson). When they uncover the body Brandon makes one of his classic comments to the gangsters “I’ve never seen a dead body before today, now I’ve seen….five!” They leave with the body in the truck from the river and they come across Adrian and Jo walking. This is when the audience finds out that Gene (Damien Garvey) knows Jo because she is a lingerie waitress that works for him. The movie cuts to tell Jo’s back story.

Jo and her rich-looking boyfriend Rick are in a fancy sports car. Jo just received a nice watch from him but she gets mad at Rick for going through with a $100,000 drug deal. Jo says that Gene will be very mad if he finds out. Jo gets out of the car when Rick slaps her across the face, causing the cut on her head. Rick leaves her on the road and heads off to complete the deal (which obviously doesn’t go well for him).

The movie goes back to when Gene and his gangsters take Jo and Adrian with Brandon and Trevor back to the farm building. With Adrian’s tape recorder Gene is able to find the big briefcase full of drugs in the fireplace. Brandon gets really pissed off and decides to go on a rampage, calling them out on their clothes, style and how they are a “wanna-be mafia.”

Gene and his gangsters stand outside the building trying to figure out how to kill the guys to make it look like they were never there in the first place. They spend a little too much time day dreaming and joking around because one of the people that they thought they killed from Ched’s gang ends up being alive and tries to shoot them. Gene, Lee (Steve Mouzaiks) and Mario (Robert Rabiah) open fire on him with every gun and every bullet they have. Somehow, the kids in the building end up not getting shot.

Lee lights a cigarette and ends up starting a fire, Mario is able to put it out but that is when the gangsters figure out that the van is leaking gasoline. Soon after there is a huge explosion lighting one of Gene’s men on fire and he flies into the building and starts it on fire.

Brandon is able to burn the ropes off his arms and save Jo, Trevor and Adrian from dying. They all get to a safe place far from the building but Brandon realizes that Adrian’s diaries were still in the building so he leaves the group to rescue them. They thought that Brandon was doomed because he was gone for a while, but of course Brandon shows up safe and sound.

Finally the group made it to the beach. The movie ends with Brandon trying to teach Adrian and Trevor how to surf.

 

 


Critical Uptake

Many people left the theater kind of upset by the movie. There was no real climax to the movie and the storyline just wasn’t cutting it (either were the jokes) Louise Keller also believes so:

“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.”[1]

There were many mixed reviews about how Evan Clarry chose to tell the story of the adventure crew. I liked it because it made the film more bearable to watch. It also gave room for people to guess what happened to them before they got themselves in the situation. Andrew Urban on the other hand was not fond of the flashbacks to get the actors back story.

“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.” [1]

He thought that it was too choppy and caused even more distress about the movie.

There was a lot of confusion as to why it was called Under the Radar in the first place. I feel like there could have been some potential there with the title. The film makers just didn’t take the time to develop the hiding and chasing scenes enough. The characters were caught right away and they didn’t show an struggle of trying to catch them individually.

“Your guess is as good as mine as to why the film is entitled Under the Radar, and I'm similarly at a loss as to whether or not this is a comedy with a amount of thriller elements or if it's a thriller with some funny moments.”[2]

This also brings up the fact that many reviewers were disappointed in the lack of one specific genre. I too was disappointed in the not funny jokes and the non-thrilling “thriller.” Overall I would give this movie .

 

Endnotes:

[1] Louise Keller and Andrew Urban’s reviews on Urban Cinefile at: http://www.urbancinefile.com.au/home/view.asp?Article_ID=9190

[2] Vince Leo’s review on Qwipster’s Movie Reviews at: http://www.qwipster.net/undertheradar.htm

Circumstances of Production

There are some interesting facts given in the production notes of Under the Radar that give some prospective of how the film was actually suppose to feel. It was suppose to be about darker subjects but it was to be expressed in a lighter, funnier way. The idea of Comedy/Thriller film could be an interesting combination if done in the right way.

If you would like to know more about the production notes – click here.

This film wanted to have a fresh feel to it. The director, Evan Clarry and the producers, Chris Brown and Chris Fitchett, wanted to get new faces for their starring roles. For the most part the whole cast and crew was newer to the movie making business than most films.

Under the Radar was financially back by Television Fund and Macquarie Nine Film, the Australian Film Finance Corporation and Television Commission and the Pacific Film. It was only the second film to be created by the Pictures In Paradise’s new Queensland writers [1].

The film was filmed in an area of Queensland that is generally sunny and hot but unfortunately for the film makers it heavily rained almost constantly for their 27 say shoot. The makers were later happy with the shoots they were able to capture in the night with the rain as an added bonus. They said that it made a different look for the film.

The crew tried to make the night scenes dark and dreary with the colors used in clothing and the sets. During the flashbacks of the past they tried to do have a lighter color pallet and use brighter colors. The crew took parts of other films in which fit in with the scenes of the movie and adapted them to create a new look.

When Nathan Phillips was asked by Evan Clarry if he could surf (in order to get the role of Brandon) he obviously said yes, even though he had no idea how to. Evan thought that this was a characteristic of Brandon’s character. Eventually Nathan was able to learn how to long-board and he was able to convince the crew to change the surfer into a long boarder.

At the box office, the film did alright in its first week at number 12. After its first week it didn’t make the top 20. That week was also the release of two big movies, Fahrenheit 9/11 and The Chronicles of Riddick which were numbers two and three respectively. During Under the Radar’s second week in release Man on Fire and White Chicks came out and became the number one and two spots, even the terrible Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen movie New York Minute (in it’s sixth week in release) came in at number 18.[2]

 

Endnotes:

[1] Storelli, B, & Nix, F (2004). Under the Radar Press Kit. Production Notes, Retrieved April 12, 2008, from http://thecia.com.au/reviews/u/images/under-the-radar.pdf.

[2] Urban Cinefile – The World of Film in Australia – on the Internet at: http://www.urbancinefile.com.au/home/boxoffice.asp

 

Prior Works

 

Like I have said before, Under the Radar had a really fresh and new cast and crew. Some with a little prior experience and some people with none at all. Together they were able to make a decent Australian comedy.

The director Evan Clarry had some success for his film he directed called Blurred in 2002 which was another teen Australian comedy. Prior to that he directed Mate in 1998. Since Under the Radar he has not directed much except for a few episodes of a TV series called “Mortified.”

Steve Pratt wrote is first and only screenplay for Under the Radar. It is kind of obvious that he was a first time writer because he tried to purposely do multiple genres in one movie instead of sticking to one main theme. I believe that the movie was not enough of either comedy or thriller to make it a really excellent flick.

Nathan Phillips started his career on TV as a younger child. He was on popular Australian series, “Neighbours”, “The Saddle Club”, “Something in the Air”, and “Blue Heelers.” He first hit the big screen in a major role in Australian Rules (2002) which he played Gary “Blacky” Black. He also played roles in Take Away (2003) and One Perfect Day (2004). These all helped him into getting the leading role in Under the Radar. After the film ended he was able to be part of the best Australian horror film Wolf Creek (2005) and other various films.

Clayton Watson also started his career acting on TV on series called “High Flyers” (1999), “Always Greener” (2001), and did voices on “The Animatrix” (2003) and “Kid’s Story” (2003). His big début was in The Matrix Reloaded (2003) and The Matrix Revolutions (2003) playing the role as “Kid”.

Christopher Widdows, mainly known as “Steady Eddy” is a standup comedian who uses his disability for his jokes. He played a smaller role in Lucky Break (1994) and on a few episodes on different TV series like “A Country Practice” (1994) and “State Coroner” (1997) but nothing else until Under the Radar. Christopher said in interviews that Evan Clarry was really helpful in telling him what worked and what didn’t so he knew how he was doing. Even though Trevor in the movie has the same condition that Christopher has in real life he wasn’t automatically given the part. The crew wanted to make sure that he could act as well as be a comedian.

Chloe Maxwell was a well known model in Australia and internationally before ever shooting Under the Radar. This was the first time for her acting on the big screen but she was positive that she could do it. Chloe was on one TV movie called Ihaka: Blunt Instrument (2000) as a receptionist which probably didn’t give her much experience.

Chris Brown has been a producer and executive producer of many movies, both on TV and the big screen. Before he produced Under the Radar he worked on titles such as: The Seventh Floor (1994), All Men Are Liars (1995), Little White Lies (1996), Aberration (1997), Savage Honeymoon (2000), Stickmen (2001), Snakeskin (2001), Chubbyhouse (2001), Blurred (2002), Nemesis Game (2003) and The Locals (2003) just to name a few.

Christopher Fitchett has been a producer (the 1970s and present), writer (in the 1970-1980s) and a director (in the 1980s). Before producing Under the Radar he produced Queensland (1976) and Blurred (2002). Since the film commenced he has not done any other movie making.

Posie Graeme-Evans has done many jobs in the film business. She has been a director (1984), an editor (1990s), writer (1990-2000s) but mainly she is a producer. Before becoming one of the executive producers of Under the Radar she worked mainly on producing TV series (and mini-series) starting in 1985 with “Sons and Daughters” and continued in other TV series such as: “Elly & Jools” (1990), “Mirror, Mirror” (1995) McLeod’s Daughters (TV 1996), Doom Runners (TV 1997), “Cushion Kids” (2001) and “Hi-5” (2003). After Under the Radar she continued to produce mainly TV series and movies until her and Nathan Phillips reunited again in You and Your Stupid Mate in 2005.

As you can see most of the cast and crews experience comes from television series and a few movies. Most of the movies are smaller names in the industry though.

 

[Source: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0352951/fullcredits and the Production Notes at: http://thecia.com.au/reviews/u/images/under-the-radar.pdf ]

 


Under the Radar and Australian Film

 

Under the Radar is the perfect example of a typical Australian comedic film. Low budgeted, some known and unknown actors, surfer-type character, quirkiness, and very little actually laugh-out-loud lines. It is also a typical Australian film, it did not have much (if any success) at the box office and the people that gave this movie five stars are young adolescent girls whose comments consist of “Nathan Phillips is a HOTTIE! He rocks in this movie!” Even the young star’s fans weren’t enough for this movie to stay in the top 20 movies in the theaters for longer than its first week in release.

This film has been commented on repeatedly about how the story line is the same as films such as Memento and Fifty First Dates, with yet another character with amnesia. Although that one characteristic is the same I do believe that people do not give it credit for the film’s unique characteristics. It’s hard to pull off a movie with disabled people as the starring roles (exceptions are What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Rain Man and I am Sam) without offending people or being sad. I think that this film did one good thing with the way that it was shot. The order in which you are told the story is basically how Adrian is told by his friends. You don’t find out the background information until he does. I believe that if the film makers did not mix up the order of events then it would be a lot less interesting to watch.

So what does this have to do with Australian film? I believe that lower budget films, in general, have to get a little more creative with the story line and how things are shot. Mixing up the order of the movie shouldn’t (at least I believe) cost any more money but it gives the movie a little twist. They also should spend more time with developing the characters in order to be relatable to the audiences. Under the Radar was able to do this with one of its characters, Adrian. I have read that some people did not like him in the movie because he always has this “stupid look on his face.” If they were to look a little deeper into the story they would see that because of Adrian’s accident, every time his memory goes blank, he still believes he is 14. That confused look is priceless if you realize that. If you were to go every 30 minutes trying to figure out where you are, how old you are, how you got there, who your friends are (and the list goes on and on) then I think you would have a stupid-looking face too.

In the end of the movie you can realize that Adrian relies less on his diaries, tape recorder, and “the system” and more on the people around him. He is more of a free spirit instead of a stickler. I do think that the crew did well on that part. However, it’s hard to get into a movie like Under the Radar and its meaning behind characters when you watch it for the first time (like the audiences in the theaters) because from the trailers and hype about it said that it was suppose to be this really funny, really scary movie, which it was neither. I just don’t think that the combination (in the case) did not do well together. Most Australian “scary” movies are not that good. Most Australian “comedies” are not that good. Put them together, you get a film that is not that good.

I haven’t been in Australia for long enough to know a lot about the Australian film industry. I do know that I have enjoyed a lot of movies that I have seen so far but I have also not enjoyed some. I know that the Industry is struggling though. I think that production companies should stop wasting their 100 or so thousand dollars on (excuse my French) half-assed films and save that money to go towards a really good film. They shouldn’t try to compete with Hollywood which pops out a movie every week. Focus on one well written movie at a time. The film industry here would have much more success with doing less, but better quality movies which would really show off the skills of the film makers in Australia. I realize that this is unrealistic and probably will never happen, it was just a thought.

 

 

Film Genres

 

It is obvious that Under the Radar does its best to attempt to be a comedy. Don’t get me wrong, there were a few key lines and events that were funny and actually made me laugh, but they all mainly were coming from Steady Eddy’s character Trevor. He was very blunt and outrageous at some points; an example of this is when he makes blatantly makes fun of the McCormack House and the people that live there.

“Australian film comedy, like comedy in general, constantly deals with a humorous troubling of the familiar.” [1]

I feel that this film doesn’t really do this key aspect in which Albert Moran discusses. I doubt that a large number of people have beaten up a disabled person, got sentenced to work at a disabled persons home, lie their way out of cleaning to go surfing with two people at the home (unsupervised) and end up finding a gang with a dead body, a briefcase full of drugs, and a lot of guns. I think it could have been funnier if Brandon were to just go on an adventure with Trevor and Adrian without the gangsters with guns.

“In comedy, order is turned upside down as craziness and misrule become the order of the day.” [1]

However, Under the Radar does manage to capture this aspect of comedy. There really was no order throughout the film. In fact, the order in which you see the movie is also out of order, but I will comment on that later. I believe that this craziness is caused by Trevor throughout the film. He is the one that makes comments, steals Brandon’s car which causes them to get lost in the first place.

“Perhaps there are two basic kinds of film comedy: comedian comedy and situation comedy. The first is arguably the ‘purer’, and relies on gags and sketches; the second has a more coherent narrative, and relies on the development of character or an awareness of social incongruities and contradictions.” [2]

Steady Eddy brings the first type of comedy to the film. In interviews it was said that he did a lot of adlibbing. I found the situational comedy not really that funny. The lighting was good and the scenes were set up alright I just couldn’t find myself getting into it at all. In the end I just felt like it wasn’t funny enough to be considered a comedy.

“It [comedy] is rarely found alone, but almost always in combination with another genre.” [2]

This is where the film splits into the “Thriller” genre. I am not sure if I would classify the film as a thriller, because there wasn’t really anything thrilling about it. There was a big fire explosion at the end and it wasn’t scary at all. You could predict what was going to happen to them in the end, they were obviously going to make it to the beach. Nothing could keep Brandon from the surf.

I didn’t find either set of gangsters scary at all. It was more torturous to see them try to be tough than it was to listen to Brandon’s stupid one-liners. The mood was set right with the dark, murky night with the rain and all but that mood was reversed by the bad lines and lack of creativity. I usually am one to jump during movies pretty easily but not once did I during this film.

The film could also be considered a mini-road movie/adventure. I think that it is more adventure than it was a thriller. The time that the film does show when it is on the road is pretty good, the lighting and script wasn’t too bad because you got to see their true characters. Still, I find it hard to classify this movie’s genres because it didn’t do enough of any genre to make it for sure.

 

Endnotes:

[1] Moran, A, & Vieth, E (2006). Film in Australia: An Introduction. Cambridge University Press.

[2] Gillard, Garry (2008). Ten Types of Australian Film. 2nd Edition. Murdoch, WA: Murdoch University.