It’s hard to believe that it’s been over 9 years since Heath Ledger’s tragic passing but here we are in 2017, for me personally, I was a fan of Ledger since seeing him in 10 Things I Hate About You and I’ve watched a lot of his films more times than I could recall but there were still a few I’d never got my hands on (no pun intended) and this is the last one. Here he plays Jimmy, a young man who unfortunately finds himself in debt to local gangster, Pando (Bryan Brown) and needs to repay it before they catch up with him. Also starring: Rose Byrne, David Field, Tom Long, Tony Forrow, Steven Wilder and David Moeaki. Written and directed by Gregor Jordan.
With his grin and good looks, Ledger on screen is an overflowing font of charisma, and being so young in this film only highlights that more, it’s hard not to have a sympathy for his character, of course he first appears on screen in a bare knuckle fight but still. He’s not the only one that makes an impression, one of the first people introduced in the film is a dead man, a narrator breaking that fourth wall but without showing how he’s involved, for now all you know is there’s a decaying man in front of you. It’s extremely unusual, not the use of dead people of course that’s a regular occurrence in film and TV these days, you’d normally have perhaps the lead actor doing so or an unseen narrator, or someone who’s just there to tell the story and not actually involved but this is a combination of all of them. It certainly looks strange to begin with but as the story goes on, his involvement becomes more interesting.
Before long Jimmy meets Alex (Byrne) and the two of them have a great chemistry, it’s young and fresh, a teenage crush and it’s sweet, which you would think is a strange in an atmosphere of criminal behaviour but that underworld feels very much softened, even when Jimmy’s life is in danger, it doesn’t feel all that threatening. That might have a lot to do with Bryan Brown as Pando, a not inherently scary or strong presence and a mostly relaxed, if angry, gangster. It doesn’t damage the film, it’s clearly not a dark or violent feature, it’s a mix of genres with some romance, comedy, crime, thriller and drama. It almost moves into being a multiple narrative story, when we’re shown the two street kids who inevitable steal the money Jimmy’s been hired to deliver, as well as the mysterious dead man who keeps appearing, is he real? Is he someone from the story? Is he a ghost? Questions which the film does answer. It’s honestly a quietly strange film, the comedy doesn’t pack a punch, it’s just slipped in amongst the rest, things just come out of nowhere to help the story move along, even if they don’t make total sense and it feels as though it’s the director/writer Jordan trying to make several different films at the same time and while it manages to not be jarring to watch, it could have been improved by a stronger hand at the wheel.
If you go into this film looking for something like Pulp Fiction or Kill Bill, like some of the posters inexplicably suggest, you’re going to be sorely disappointed, it has more in common with Wes Anderson’s Bottle Rocket than it does with either of those films. The story is surprisingly captivating, it’s a little offbeat and some points aren’t quite effective as they should be because the style is indecisive but it’s an entertaining film, centred around a young Heath Ledger, full of talent and potential, that will surprise some of its audience.