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
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
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
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.