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BOYS, THE(director: Rowan Woods; screeenwriters: Stephen Sewell/from a play by Gordon Graham; cinematographer: Tristan Milani; editor: Nick Meyers; cast: David Wenham (Brett Sprague), Toni Collette (Michelle), Lynette Curran (Sandra Sprague), John Polson (Glenn Sprague), Jeanette Cronin (Jackie), Anthony Hayes (Stevie Sprague), Anna Lise (Nola), Pete Smith (George/Abo); Runtime: 85; Stratosphere Entertainment; 1997-Australia/UK)
“A slow-paced film set in the poor working-class suburbs of Sydney, about a white trash family and the violence among the three brothers that takes place during one prolonged day.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A slow-paced film set in the poor working-class suburbs of Sydney, about a white trash family and the violence among the three brothers that takes place during one prolonged day. “The Boys,” directed by Rowan Woods, builds up in tension through the bitterness and violence manifested by the brothers who bait each other and mask what lies inside them as a deep resentment for their failures. They take it out on the women they are in contact with. It culminates in a vicious rape and murder of a young woman. This film is all style and is non-judgmental in its observations, but it’s short on substance and long on inertia.

Brett Sprague (Wenham), the film’s protagonist, gets an early parole from prison after doing a year for assault with a deadly weapon. He brings his perplexed mother (Curran) a coffee table he made in prison and berates his family for not visiting him. His mother can only stare at the table and can’t even thank him for this gesture. Brett is an angry young man who bitterly tells his brothers that it is either them or us in this world, therefore it is better to get them before they get you. The boys indulge themselves with beer and drugs, and sit around the house without any constructive plans to help themselves improve their situation.

There is violence everywhere in this stupid household. It starts with the brothers bullying each other for authority in the family, as Brett asserts his leadership. Then the violence is carried over with their other relationships.

Michelle (Collette) is waiting anxiously for her boyfriend Brett to seduce her but he toys with her, turning her attempt at affection into a battle. She accuses him of getting it from behind in prison and now is not able to perform. This expectedly brings about a beating from Brett and her total rejection of him.

Stevie (Hayes) has made a timid girl called Nola (Lise) pregnant and treats her with utter contempt, so much so that she tells the boys’ mother she would rather move out of the house and live homeless in a bus terminal than stay with a monster like Stevie.

Glenn (Polson) is seeing a girl with upward aspirations, Jackie (Cronin). She encourages him to get an entry level minimum wage job, which he gets a ribbing from his brothers when he gets such a job. But this is not enough as Jackie puts her foot down further and tells him her family says that she is too good for him, that she will stay with him only if he doesn’t see his brothers anymore. Glenn says he can’t live without his brothers. When Jackie leaves him, he feels as if the air has been sucked out of him.

The weak-spirited mother who doesn’t have a clue of how to handle the boys is living with her new live-in boyfriend, a half-Aboriginal, George (Smith). When he comes to her aid after she is being berated by Brett he ends up getting bashed over the head, as the boys show the disdain they have for him.

The film had realistic performances from its leads and had a gritty look. But the story flattened out and with violence being the loudest emotion expressed by anyone in this loser’s family, the story predictably ends on a very violent note. It is hard to explain Brett as being anything else but a psychopath and to blame his mother and hold her totally responsible for the families’ demise as was implied, is not very fair. The film makes no comments about a society that helped bring about such anti-social behavior and what circumstances kept the family incapacitated.

This first feature by Woods based on a work that was presented on stage, had its powerful moments making a strong case about how male insecurity and violence are so closely linked. But the film couldn’t get further into its subjects other than to expose the boys’ surface wounds and their bleak story about their frustrations to deal with life, as the story just went nowhere but down a predictable violent path. It left the implication that society better be prepared to build more jails or else, implying that there is no way to help a family that won’t even lift a finger to help itself.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”