(director/writer: Anthony Hayes; screenwriter: Polly Smyth; cinematographer: Ross Giardina; editor: Sean Lahiff; music: Antony Partos; cast: Zac Efron (Man One), Anthony Hayes (Man Two), Susie Porter (The Stranger, The Stranger’s Sister), Akuol Ngot  (Mother on Train), Thiik Biar (Baby on Train), Andreas Sobik (Outpost Attendant); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: R; producers; John Schwarz, Michael Schwarz, Anthony Hayes: Screen Media Films; 2022-Australia)

“Bleak and underwhelming outback thriller about greed.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Aussie director and actor Antony Hayes (“Ten Empty”) with sparse dialogue directs this bleak and underwhelming outback thriller about greed, that he co-writes with Polly Smyth (wife of Antony Hayes). It plays out as a post-apocalyptic survival horror thriller filmed in Australia.

The story takes place after an apocalyptic war has disfigured the earth and left it filled with radiation. There are a few nameless survivors and many black craters on a scorching desert. The story is set in a single remote desert location.

The nameless anti-hero (Zac Efron) walks with a limp. He gets a ride with the truck driver (Antony Hayes), who has a neck tattoo.

When the duo make a pit stop, Zac is forced out in the barren desert. But he comes across a large gold nugget (larger than the two men combined) stuck in the sand. Needing an excavator to get it out, Zach is left to guard the nugget and the older man goes on a dangerous five-day trip to get the excavator.

The younger man is left with a gallon of water and a few cans of beans. Fighting off snakes, scorpions (whereby he befriends one and converses with the scorpion, absurdly saying “Look at you, crawling on a massive cluster of gold your whole life and you don’t even know it”), and wild dogs (showing us we live in an animalistic dog’s world). While he impatiently waits for the return of the truck driver, he is covered with sun blisters and begins to lose it almost completely–but is kept going by thoughts of the shiny gold nugget he will soon possess.

Zac’s nearly wordless performance speaks volumes for this downer film, one that has no misgivings telling us if you think our present world is bad wait until you see what the future might have in store for us.

REVIEWED ON 3/10/2022  GRADE: C+