Shaye Connor
MCC231
Assignment 2: Critical Review

 
 

Movie Poster Image for Under the Radar

 

Under the Radar (2004) - Rating: M

 

Principal Cast

 

Brandon – Nathan Phillips
Adrian – Clayton Watson
Trevor – Steady Eddy
Jo – Chloe Maxwell
Maxine- Marge Downey
Ched – Robert Menzies
Garry – Syd Brisbane
Trent – Gyton Grantley
Ash – Teo Gebert
Gene – Damien Garvey
Mario- Robert Rabiah
Lee- Steve Mouzakis
Ricardo- Rory Williamson

 
Under the Radar
Under the Radar 

 

The Filmmakers

Director – Evan Clarry
Producer – Chris Brown, Chris Fitchett
Executive Producer – Jennie Hughes, Kris Noble
Writer – Steve Pratt
Cinematography – Philip M Cross
Casting – Lynn Ruthven
Editor – Antonio Mestres
Production Designer – Georgie Greenhill
Costume Designer – Jason Gibaud
Art Direction – Ken James
Key Hair/Make Up – Lea Dixon, Sally Gordon
Composer – Frank Tetaz, David Thrussell

 
 

Other Facts

Film Particulars:

Rating: MA15+
Running Time: 95 mins
Genre: Comedy/Drama/Thriller
Video/DVD Release Date: 15 December 2004
Budget: $130,000
Filming Locations: Gold Coast, Queensland

 

Release Dates:

Australia: 29th July 2004. France: 16 May 2004 (Cannes Film Market). Hungary: 8th February 2008 (TV premiere).

 

Production Companies:

Macquarie Film Corporation 

Distributors:

Hoyts Distribution (2004, Australia, theatrical)

 
 
 
 

Awards (Wins and Nominations):

ASSG Award  2004:
Won:
Best Achievement in Sound for a feature film- Sound Design – John Patterson, Nicolas Byrnes, Warren Pearson, Duncan McAllister, Helen Brown, Luke Young.
AFI Award 2004
Nominated
Best Actress in a Leading Role- Chloe Maxwell
 

 

Interviews:

Most of the interviews for this film were conducted prior to the film being released and had specific references to other films that the actors had stared in that were either successful or unsuccessful in regards to box office takings. Interviews with the film maker also discussed previous films to the same standard as ‘Under the Radar’.

Evan Clarry Interviews:
http://www.abc.net.au/atthemovies/txt/s1163750.htm
http://www.pdgv.com.au/news/2004-07-26_00.html

Nathan Phillips interviews:
http://www.urbancinefile.com.au/home/view.asp?a=9182&s=Interviews
http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/07/22/1090464782996.html

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

 

Reviews:

There are quite a few reviews for the film ‘Under the Radar’ with most comments concerning the films lack of originality, but brilliance, and the multiple genres that the film could be classified into. . Most reviewers gave the film 3 and a half to 4 stars out of 5.
Variety film review by Richard Kuipers: http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117924494.html?categoryid=31&cs=1&p=0
“Engaging performances by an appealing cast will help "Radar" to modest theatrical biz at home”
At the Movies review by David Stratton: http://www.abc.net.au/atthemovies/txt/s1161828.htm
'…Under the Radar' isn't funny or thrilling enough. It has some bright moments, but the plotting is derivative”
Cinephilia film review by Bernard Hemingway: http://www.cinephilia.net.au/show_detailed_review.php?movieid=2326
“The film delights in its mongrel status and Clarry evidently aspires to be an Antipodean Tarentino or Rodriguez”
Search SA Communications film review by Christina Bruce: http://www.searchsa.com.au/review/Movie_Review.asp?id=71
Under The Radar’ successfully combines comedy with just enough suspense to create a decent, fun and ultimately satisfying film, which for once in an Australian movie was a welcome relief”
The Urban Cine File review by Andrew L. Urban: http://www.urbancinefile.com.au/home/view.asp?a=9190&s=Reviews
“…the casting of Nathan Phillips ensures that the lead character has oodles of credibility”
.

 
 
 
 

Online Presence:

Under the radar is reasonably unknown to most overseas as it was a film that didn’t really take off too well. Search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Dogpile retrieve few results in comparison to larger more prominent Australian films. However there are some decent websites that have solid information about the film and many differing reviews that often celebrate the past work of Evan Clarry. Some reputable sites include:
www.imdb.com/title/tt0352951- this site features a lot of information about the various works of Evan Clarry. It also has the largest amount of information about “Under the Radar” than any other site of its nature.

www.afc.gov.au/filmsandawards/recentfilms/cannes04/feature_123 - This site is the Australian Film Commission’s Official website and has a decent amount of information regarding the making of the film “Under the Radar” and its placement in Australia in regard to awards and box office takings.
www.cinephilia.net.au/show_amovie.php?movieid=2326- “…Melbourne's free, independent, film review site specialising in Australian and independent releases, including Under The Radar.”

 

Synopsis

“Under the Radar” by Evan Clarry follows the story of a young surfer named Brandon (Nathan Phillips) who finds himself sentenced to do community work at a home for the disabled (on a good behavior bond), after a surfing stunt saw him attack a boy with down syndrome. Brandon is portrayed as a character with a typical Australian attitude; he is wacky, laid back and does not take anything seriously. While at the home Brandon meets Trevor (Christopher “Steady Eddy” Widoows) and Adrian (Clayton Watson) who are two residents. Trevor is portrayed as a dry-humored slacker with cerebral palsy who will do almost anything to get out of the weekly chores and get his own way. Adrian is a more reserved resident with short term memory loss; he wears a card around his neck and takes regular recordings of his surroundings so that he can remember who and where he is. With Brandon stuck at the home he is unable to compete in a surfing competition, which prompts him to convene a plan that will get him to the contest; he decides to take both Adrian and Trevor on an ‘outing to the sea’. On the way to the sea they are caught out by a group of gangsters who discover them in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Critical review of the Plot
The film ‘Under the Radar’ by Evan Clarry begins towards the end of the film with one of the main characters, Adrian (Clayton Watson), running in what appears to be an empty field. He is being chased by a car full of what appears to be typical Australian “gangsters”. The film sees him hit by the car’s door and then black out. When he awakens he finds himself in an outback shed and is interrogated by these gangsters, he is dazed and confused when asked questions such as “who sent you” and “who do you work for”, and it becomes clear that he doesn’t recall where he is or how he got there. The plot thickens when one of the gangsters, Ched (Robert Menzies), pulls a tag from around Adrian’s neck- which describes that he has short term memory loss and therefore cannot remember the events that had taken place. The following scenes see the next character, Brandon (Nathan Phillips), being brought into the shed for interrogation; he is very talkative and cheeky to the gangsters which makes them like him even less. Ched is left alone with Brandon and Adrian who are both tied to a chair; when talking to Brandon, the gangster becomes frustrated and starts having heart convulsions. While reaching for his pills he drops the last one onto the ground in front of Brandon who accidentally crushes it under his chair- leaving Ched clutching his heart and collapsing onto the ground, he appears dead. Brandon then says to Adrian “I bet you want to know how we got here?”.
The next scene shows the ‘start’ of the story at a beach where Brandon is surfing waves. The audience see someone ‘drop in’ on Brandon’s wave which causes him to fall off his board; not one to look stupid, Brandon proceeds to yell at and hit the person repeatedly not realizing it is a young boy with down syndrome. Brandon’s bad luck continues when he discovers that the boy was in fact the Mayor’s son- he is then sentenced to do community work at a home for the disabled called The McCormack House. Upon arrival to the house, Brandon is immediately displeased with his arrangement because it is so far from any beach. He meets the ward Maxine who tries to convince him that there is heaps to do at the home and that he should meet some of the residents.  The first resident he meets is Adrian, who he later discovers has recurring amnesia and can only remember things for 10-30 minutes, he writes all important facts and information into his diaries so that he can remember them later.
Adrian and Brandon take an interest in one another and are often seen communicating with each other in the house. The next scene shows Brandon in his car smoking what appears to be marijuana and listening to his car radio. He learns that there is a surfing competition and conducts a plan to be able to attend it. He then goes to the recreation room to find Adrian to introduce the idea of an ‘outing to the beach’. Adrian becomes excited about the idea, as does Trevor- a resident with cerebral palsy. Brandon presents this idea to Maxine and they begin to load his car up. The story then cuts back to the scene in the shed where Adrian and Brandon are tied to a chair, Brandon is trying franticly to untie them both. One of the gangsters comes in to check on them and discovers Ched dead on the floor; this prompts his anger as he furiously questions the pair on the incident. As he grabs Brandon the audience sees a harpoon emerge through an opening in the door, the harpoon is shot into the gangster’s leg and Trevor appears behind it. Brandon starts to ease a little because they have gained control when Trevor, accidentally (“it was the p-p-palsy”), shoots an arrow into the gangster’s neck. This causes Brandon outrage because the harpoon was aimed at him for a majority of the time. The audience sees Adrian running through the field, this time it is dark, and he is stunned by a van’s headlights that are approaching him fast. He is tacked to the ground by a female character who claims that it’s okay, her name is Jo, and that he knows her.
The next scene cuts back to the start when they have just hit the road on their way to the beach. They drive past a female hitchhiker and immediately stop and ask her if she would like a lift. Her name is Jo and she claims she is on her way to the Coast and that she is coming from her uncle’s farm nearby- the audience is led to believe there is much more to her story than she lets on. All three boys take an immediate liking towards Jo and are seen squabbling for her attention by making fun of one another. The group then stops for a rest at a local café where Trevor, in a bid for attention, steals Brandon’s car and takes it for a joyride around the car park. This behavior provokes the unwanted attention of the local police who Brandon is afraid will charge him because he is on a good behavior bond. This sees the group travel down the back roads, in a bid to escape the police, onto private property. The group stops when they reach a no-through road and begin to argue about which direction they ‘should’ have gone.  Meanwhile Adrian has strayed from the group and is walking through the bush to go to the toilet. He hears voices of men which prompts him to hide behind a nearby tree; from the safety of the tree Adrian watches as the men lower what appears to be a body wrapped in a black bag into a creek. Adrian knows that something illegal is going on so he records what is being said on his recorder, unfortunately when he leans in closer he stumbles on a branch and he gangsters begin to chase him back to the car firing their guns.
Brandon starts the car and they speed away through the field while being pursued by the gangsters in a Ute.  The gangsters shoot at Brandon’s tires which causes the car to spin out of control down a small ravine. The gang immediately flee the car all going in different directions in a bid to confuse the gangsters. Unfortunately for Adrian the gangsters decide to go after him as he tears through the field on foot as they race after him in their Ute. The audience sees Adrian stumble and fall onto the ground; here he frantically rips pages from his journal and proceeds to eat them in a bid to hide his last entries from his would-be capturers. The film then cuts back to the scene in the field where Jo has tackled Adrian and filled him in on the details. Meanwhile Brandon and Trevor are still in the outback shed, Brandon still tied to the chair and Trevor trying to untie him- but to no avail. Two men in black leather walk into the shed and begin to question Brandon; to show that they mean business one of the mobsters shoots the chair in front of Brandon, leaving him frightened for his life and willing to lead them to ‘something’ the other gangsters hid in the creek. The mobsters bully Brandon into retrieving the black bag out of the creek and stand back as they cut open the top of the bag. It is revealed that there is a body inside the bag, and that it belongs to the main mobster’s brother, Ricco (Rory Williamson).
This displeases the main mobster, Gene (Damien Garvey), greatly as he loads the body into the back of his van and orders Brandon back into the front seat. As they are driving back to the shed Jo and Adrian are caught trying to cross the road. Jo seems to know Gene which raises the curiosity of the other characters. The story then cuts to Jo in the passenger seat of a luxury car with her then-boyfriend Ricco. Jo is a waitress at Gene’s club and her and Ricco have decided to run away from the gangster’s lifestyle. On the way they have an argument over a drug deal that Ricco promised Jo was over-which prompts Jo to get out of the car. Ricco pleads with her to get back in, upon refusal he speeds away leaving her in the dust; which is where she starts hitchhiking. The film then cuts back to where Gene and the mobsters take Brandon, Adrian, Trevor and Jo back to the outback shed for further interrogation. Jo tries to calm Gene and convince him to let them go, however Gene has other plans and proceeds to slap Jo in the head with his gun which causes her to collapse to the floor. This provokes Brandon to mouth-off which makes Gene and the mob even madder.  Using Adrian’s tape recorder, Gene is able to find the missing drugs under the fireplace; his posse then leave the shed and load up their van with the drugs. While outside Gene and his mob try to contemplate a way to kill Brandon, Adrian, Jo and Trevor in a way that will make it look like an accident to authorities; suddenly they are shot at by one of Ched’s men who is conveniently still alive despite being shot in the neck by a harpoon. As the mobsters open fire, not knowing what direction the shot had come from, one of them accidentally knocks over a fuel can in front of the van. After they have shot Ched’s man, one of the mobsters drops a lit cigarette onto the ground which immediately spreads due to the knocked over petrol can. As flames engulf the van it explodes which results in one of Gene’s men being catapulted through the shed wall on fire. As the fire begins to demolish the shed, Brandon manages to untie himself and rescue Jo (who is passed out) from being engulfed by the flames.  The group escape from the shed with the help of Brandon and all sit back and watch the blaze. The film then cuts to a scene of all characters at the beach; Jo sun baking, and Brandon teaching Adrian and Trevor to surf.
The film was fairly disappointing in that the plot has been played out many times in other road movies where the main character gets caught up in something for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The genre of the film is much different in that it is both a thriller and a comedy. I think because it is a comedy the scenes set to thrill is down-graded with humor. The main character, Brandon (Nathan Phillips), is an overt over-actor who emphasizes the typical Australian surfer attitude too much throughout the film which tends to overshadow the other characters. The character of Adrian had the potential to be the most interesting; however it seemed that Clayton Watson had trouble adapting the personality on screen which leaves the audience with mixed feelings about his character.  Even the character of Trevor (Steady Eddy) seemed to overshadow Adrian with his blasé personality and sense of humor. With so many great Australian actors (Nathan Phillips, Clayton Watson, Chloe Maxwell), the film should have been a much more enjoyable experience- instead it seems the audience was left with a few laughs and an unstructured story.

 

Critical Uptake of the Film

Most critics agreed that the film was lacking much of what was evident in Evan Clarry’s past film “Blurred” (2002) and had the potential to be a great film. Most criticism was based on the cast performance rather than the way it was written to screen. Many claimed that the character of Adrian (Clayton Watson) was the most intriguing and cleverest character and that he was presented well. Others argued that Adrian’s character was dull and his personality was not lifted to screen in a way that would make his personality develop into a potential success. Many commented on the way the film was formatted in scrambled continuity, by beginning the story from close to the end and then backtracking to explain how it came about. Sometimes it became hard to understand where the story was actually going; although they had this ‘mission’ to get to the beach it seemed that the story did not revolve around this; the randomness of the gangster scenes sort of threw the story off track. Many reviewers commented on the way the story was told with Urban claiming that “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...” he also stated that “...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.” (Andrew Urban).The film had the potential to be a great story but Clarry clearly had trouble adapting the screenplay, which was originally written by Steve Pratt, to film. The thing that disappointed me most about the film was the large array of great young actors, who were forced to act in a dry and untalented way.

 

Production information

Under the Radar was shot entirely in pristine Queensland locations by the ‘Pictures In Paradise’ production team. Much of Under the Radar was shot on location, and according to the producers, was meant to be filmed in fine and sunny conditions; however when the film crew arrived on set it began to rain which gave the film an entirely different look and feel.
The rain changed the entire mood of the film and presented it as a more dark and eerie landscape, especially at night. Director of Photography Phil Cross used Cooke S4 lenses for a cleaner shot and opted for the Kodak Stock (Vision 25218) for the difficult nighttime scenes. He claims that the hardest scene to shoot was “...the traveling car interiors, which saw me being dragged up and down the road on low loaders behind or next to a four-wheel-drive for most of the day”. 
Directed by Evan Clarry, Under the Radar was adapted from a screenplay originally written by Steve Pratt and starred fresh Australian actors in the form of Nathan Phillips, Chloe Maxwell and Clayton Watson. It was the first feature film that actor/model Chloe Maxwell had starred in. Macquarie Nine Film and Television Fund, the Australian Film Finance Corporation and the Pacific Film and Television Commission Funded the project.  When it came time to choose the actors, Evan Clarry had a specific image in mind:
 Brandon: Clarry claims that Nathan Phillips was one of the first promising actors to try out for Brandon and that he was called back almost immediately because he was perfect for the role. He had the right attitude, the laid back Australian surfer feel “...Nathan always seemed to have the right attitude for Brandon. When I first met him I asked him if he could surf and of course he lied and said he could, exactly as Brandon would have done.”(Evan Clarry).
Adrian: Adrian’s character was one of the most interesting because he could not remember anything from the age of 14, so Clayton Watson decided to play a 14 year old character stuck in a 24 year old body.
Trevor: Trevor’s character, although obviously disabled, was meant to be one of the strongest characters; with Clarry claiming “..What was interesting with Steady is that he really understood the nature and personality of the character and after a while you forget that Trevor is handicapped in any way.
 As with Steady, it is not a big facet of his life”.
Jo: Clarry seized the opportunity to star Chloe Maxwell in the role of Jo, Clarry says “ We really did want to discover someone completely new for that character and we were very lucky to find Chloe”.
You can find more information on the production of this film on the following website:
http://thecia.com.au/reviews/u/images/under-the-radar.pdf

 

Prior Work of the Cast and Crew

Evan Clarry opted to present a fresh and new cast for the film Under the radar. After his success in his previous film ‘Blurred’ (2002), Clarry was determined to find a cast that will lead him to a second success. Nathan Phillips, Chloe Maxwell, and Clayton Watson were already establishing themselves as actors before they auditioned for ‘Under the Radar’.

Nathan Phillips had been working on television shows such as ‘The Saddle Club’, ‘Something in the Air’ and ‘Blue Heelers’ for quite some time. He also had the lead role in the US film ‘Warriors of Virtue 2’ and stared in a role in the mocking comedy ‘Take Away’.

Clayton Watson had established a fairly solid acting career after starring in a role in the film ‘Matrix Reloaded’. He had also played a role in the Australian TV series ‘Always Greener’ for quite some time.

Chloe Maxwell is a well known Australian model who is mostly remembered as the ‘jeans west girl’. Under the radar was her first feature film and has helped launched her into a predicted acting career.

Steady Eddy is a much celebrated comedian who has been seen at many comedy festivals including the famous Melbourne International Comedy Festival. He has received a great deal of awards for his comic excellence including an Aria for Best Comedy Recording.

For more information on the past work of the cast please visit:

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

 

Under the Radar as an Australian Film

Under the radar is presented well as a typical Australian film. It has an all-round Australian cast who play the stereotypical ‘Australian’ role well. Although written by an Australian the film is very similar to other Hollywood type films, there are many films that depict a character with amnesia and they all seem to be relatively the same. The location shots were set primarily in Queensland, in areas that looked very stereotypically ‘Australian’. It would be easy to recognize that the film was shot in Australia from the vast bush land and farm scenes throughout the film (if not for the accents of the main characters).
Also the gangster scenes, although over-the-top and unrealistic, were typical to Australian culture and the types of ‘rough as guts’ Australian gangsters appear to the general public- especially those in the outback. The outback shed where the characters were interrogated also depicts an Australian feel, complete with a horse trough and farmyard feel. And the dark scenes are overshadowed by the humor of the characters- an Australian talent.
The film, although lacking a structured and strong story, is presented in a way that is sensitive to those who have disabilities such as cerebral palsy. The character of Trevor depicts this well as he is well known for his comic genius. Although the film didn’t take off too well outside Australia, the Australian public can still relate too many of the characters (especially the younger generation) because they are such prominent and stereotypical entities.
The characters the Evan Clarry chose were more or less suitable to their roles. However I do believe that some of the characters should have been restricted in their acting, such as Brandon who played out the ‘typical Aussie bloke’ role too much which caused him to overshadow the other characters.
As an Australian I actually enjoyed the humor in this film; however I think that the film could have had a lot more potential.

 

Online References

I
www.abc.net.au/atthemovies/txt/s1163750.htm
www.afc.gov.au/filmsandawards/recentfilms/cannes04/feature_123
www.cinephilia.net.au/show_detailed_review.php?movieid=2326
www.imdb.com/name/nm0165136/
http://www.searchsa.com.au/review/Movie_Review.asp?id=71
thecia.com.au/reviews/u/under-the-radar.html
www.urbancinefile.com.au/home/view.asp?Article_ID=9190
http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117924494.html?categoryid=31&cs=1&p=0
www.webwombat.com.au/entertainment/movies/under-the-radar.htm

All images provided by using Google Image search.