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The Nothing Men
Reviewed by Glenn Erskine on August 8, 2010

Anchor Bay Entertainment
presents a film written and directed by Mark Fitzpatrick
Starring: David Field, Colin Friels, Martin Dingle-Wall, Simon Van Der Stap, Brendan Clearkin
Running Time: 84 mins
Rating: MA15+
Released: August 12, 2010 (limited)
 


7/10

 


Australian films are often criticised for being too depressing in their attempts to realistically portray the darker side of Australian society. For those naysayers, The Nothing Men will only provide more ammunition. To those of us with an appreciation for the stories that local filmmakers dare to tell, this is a solid and tightly crafted debut from writer Mark Fitzpatrick. Itís certainly not light viewing, but itís compelling nonetheless.

The Nothing Men is a distressing story following a crew of factory workers eagerly awaiting their redundancy payouts, spending their days in the confines of an empty warehouse that was once their workplace. When news of a mysterious new arrival reaches the foreman Jack (Colin Friels), the crew worry that their days of sitting around drinking and gambling will be reported and their redundancy snatched from them. David (David Field) is greeted by an antagonistic and paranoid group of men. He manages to befriend chess-playing pacifist Wesley (Martin Dingle-Wall) who subsequently learns a dark secret about the newcomer that will be the catalyst for a shocking series of events.


Wesley (Martin Dingle-Wall) and David (David Field) harbour some dark secrets.

Despite its short running time, this film is hard to swallow. It is filled with unlikeable, unsympathetic characters. There is no clear-cut protagonist, though some of the greatest films follow this unconventional formula. Jack is a character that you just want to beat into silence after five minutes, especially when every second word is Ďf***í. This is an achievement on the part of Colin Friels, who embodies the bitter and twisted Jack with hot-headed ferociousness. All the actors deliver top performances, especially David Field and Martin Dingle-Wall. Both their characters are quiet and reserved but hold heart-wrenching secrets close to their chest, and itís when they are revealed that the two actors really excel.

This was one of the first films shot on the RED ONE camera, filmed at the same time as Steven Soderberghís Che. Unfortunately, a poor projection of the film meant I was unable to see the film at its best. It did seem a little grainy at times and the colour was often washed-out (though this is certainly a projection problem). It sometimes felt like the script was more suited to the stage. However, there are some striking scenes where Director of Photography Peter A. Holland uses the cameraís amazing depth-of-field to make what is essentially a large, empty warehouse look cinematic. Holland also lets the camera roam rather than leaving the audience with static images. Thereís even a hint of Tarantino in one sequence that is reminiscent of Reservoir Dogs.


Paranoia leads these men to descend into a world of antagonism and cruelty.

The strongest aspect of the film is the chemistry between the actors. Some dialogue seems stinted and expository, but there are some really genuine moments. The opening conversation where the men poke fun at Vince (Michael Denka) and his inability to attract women is very amusing and a great introduction to the characters and their group dynamic. Itís when the men reflect on topics such as sex, drugs and money that the script really shines, and Fitzpatrick should be congratulated for making us empathise with his unlikable characters.

The Nothing Men has only been granted a limited release in Sydney and Melbourne, but itís worth seeking out. Just be sure to bring along some happy music to listen to on the car ride home, because I certainly needed it.






 
 



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