Black comedy is a difficult thing to get right. Down Under, a film revolving around the Cronulla race riots back in 2005 tries hard but never manages to balance the horrific with the hilarious. The Cronulla riots happened around the beach of the same name and involved white supremacists showing the very best of Aussie pride. And by that I meant acting like complete c*nts. The violence was born of simmering racial tensions but boiled over in the run up to Christmas in spectacularly sudden fashion. Australia is still dealing with the legacy.
So eleven years on, we get a black comedy revolving around a car load of lower intelligence white guys ‘patrolling’ the neighbourhood and a car load of middle eastern guys out looking for payback for the previous day’s events. Neither car load are hard core racists, both are caught up in the atmosphere that followed the riots. Neither car can be said to house the brightest sparks.
The movie begins with some pretty horrific news footage of the riots and has tracking shots filled with portentous music scattered throughout, presumably in an attempt to ground this in some sort of serious message. Ib between these bits, we follow the various idiots as they cajole more reasonable people in their friendship group into joining the ill-fated mission. Nominally on the white side we have a guy looking after his down syndrome cousin and on the middle eastern side, a young undergraduate concerned that his brother has gone missing on the day of the carnage. Beyond that, everyone is there is fill various noxious stereotypes and to either be the perpetrator or the butt of as many lowbrow gags as you can fit into ninety-odd minutes.
That’s not to say Down Under isn’t sporadically funny, there were at least a couple of scenes that were darkly hilarious but the overall tone of the piece is all over the place. All the lads have a wide range of issues they are dealing with (whipped father, closeted hard lad and so on and so forth) but it’s very difficult to identify with any of them because they are all clearly complete cretins. And if that’s the point the movie is attempting to make, it makes it very well. Nobody wins in this horrible mess, regardless of their level of innocence but this is framed in such an unlikeable movie that I came out not giving a shit about any of them.