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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital Stereo
  • Commentary - English: Dolby Digital Stereo
  Subtitles
  • None
  Extras
  • 2 Teaser trailer - The Boys
  • 6 Theatrical trailer - The Bank, The Monkey's Mask,Vigil, All Men Are Liars,The Navigator, Sweetie
  • Audio commentary - Director Rowan Woods
  • 2 Photo gallery - From the original play, From the film
  • Animated menus
  • Digitally remastered
  • Documentaries - Filmmakers Talking
  • Short film - Tran the Man
  • Jacket picture
  • Soundtrack information - Two full length tracks included

The Boys

Madman Entertainment/AV Channel . R4 . COLOR . 85 mins . MA15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Australian cinema has had many perfect moments through the years, but perhaps none have been achieved so seemingly effortlessly as The Boys. David Wenham is sensational as Brett Sprague, newly released parolee returning to a family that hasnít missed him to find his control has slipped. The methods he employs to regain it are startlingly menacing as we slowly learn facts about the nature of the crime that put him in gaol to begin with.

Opening with grainy video footage of a circumstance we donít yet understand, we then see Brett leaving gaol, patiently awaiting a ride home. Our first clues that Brett hasnít been missed emerge as he returns to the family home from which he has been away for the last 12 months. With his mother are her new partner and his two younger brothers with their partners. Slowly re-establishing his stranglehold on the fearful household, Brettís malicious nature steadily creeps out as he interacts with each individual.

"What f*ckiní future? This is it mate. This is the f*ckiní future!"

Before this release day is over, we learn through a series of flash-forwards that a terrible crime has been perpetrated, yet we are only slowly provided with details as we travel down the dark highway of this film. The tension builds masterfully as the tantalising clues are given to what it could be, compelling us to watch, although we know some brutal horror is coming.

As a story, this single day is electrifying as the walls of Brettís kingdom are quickly rebuilt; even as the walls of his mind come tumbling down. Infecting all he touches, Brettís menacing aura creates conflict in every quarter of the home; a home that has been seemingly free of unrest these last 12 months. Moviemaker tools have been perfectly utilised to create the exact tension and mood necessary to carry off the filmís powderkeg of emotion. Handheld cameras give us a dirty voyeur feel as we hide around corners watching this family so swiftly unravelling. Extreme close-ups, slow pans, exclusion of the speaker in shot and the aforementioned grainy video create the squallid air of the piece, finally infecting us too as we learn the nature of the brutalities and the horror they contain. However, the filmís true power is in suggestion, rather than in showing the acts themselves. After all, the unknown is different in all of us, and attaching our own worst nightmare to the events just helps the filmís volatile impact even more.

Every performance in this film is perfectly sensational. Wenham is genuinely scary in the role of Brett, his cold eyes wandering over the other characters like a snake, using fear to get his way. Toni Collette as his girlfriend Michelle is as astounding as ever; her quick-thinking character so easily dominated in the past, emerging into the light to try and free herself from the grip of this sinister individual. John Polson shines as Gary Sprague, the brother trying desperately to change his life and hopelessly trapped between the worlds of his family and his de facto wife, until their individual gravities threaten to tear him apart. Director Rowan Woods has assembled a perfect cast gleaned from both new talent and veteran actors of the original stageplay, and they work in perfect synchronisation with each other.

Confronting and hard edged, resonant and cutting, this is honest and powerful filmmaking, made all the more spectacular for the fact that for most of the crew, including the director, this is a first feature film. Perhaps unrestrained by politics or filmmaking ethics, every nuance of the production is fresh and while never pleasant, expertly evokes a response from the viewer, taking us to the dark heart of the human condition as if an old hand.

  Video
Contract

With so many formats jostling for position, the film still manages to be perfectly balanced. The use of reshot-to-film video footage lends a dire static and harsh grain to the sequences in which itís been employed, and this gives us a dreamlike news-story feel. Cutting back and forth from flash-forwards to the parole day, the film threatens to unseat us, but the expert use of subtle clues keeps us tethered to the story. This is maintained in part due to the extraordinary cinematography of the interior of the suburban rental in which the Spragues live. Still images in the start deliver us beautifully into the film and make a perfect still montage allowing us entry into this world.

Delivered in 1.85:1 with anamorphic enhancement, the screen has been utilised in a bizarre method of both capturing critical moments well, and weaving us back and forth through the less important. Jerky camera movements, sluggish slow motion and flipping in and out of focus all somehow work to accrue the appropriate sentiment and keep us mired in the horror. Film artefacts pop up every so often, but these just add to the feeling and actually kind of enhance the film. The picture, having been recently digitally restored, looks amazing with a supreme clarity and sharpness. Colours are richly filled without over-saturation and bring the ordinary into the dreamlike and the common into nightmarish.

Flesh tones are natural and have been well lit to garner the effect sought; toxic greens from a car dashboard lend a sickly, lurching feeling. Pure daylight, so rarely used here, lends a chance at freedom and so on. Shadow detail is perfect, although not apparent in the video footage. This doesnít matter though, as the overall feeling is more important. Blacks are true to life and are well used to add the darkness crouching behind the everyday. All in all, this is a beautifully produced picture on DVD and works 100 percent.

  Audio
Contract

This is the big surprise here. Only utilising Dolby Digital stereo, the audio still manages to sound awesome. Without the need for a wide roving surround package, the film is heavily dialogued to bring its point across, however, the musical soundtrack by The Necks is astoundingly clever. Putting us into a lurid dreamstate, the music carries us into the dark heart of the story in a perfectly dreamy/nightmarish mix that both disorients us and places us firmly amid the tale. Itís a beautiful and lyrical score, lending eerieness and somehow delivering stillness among the detritus of suburbia. Added to that are a bizarre and subtly scary humming lifted from recordings of high-tensile electricity wires; usually inaudible to the human ear. Together they work in unison to create the perfect soundscape for the film and one that sinks us into the mire of these deeper regions of humanity.

Dialogue is brutally coarse at times, but adds an authenticity to the story it barely needs. Not overused and not underused, the swearing is appropriate to the setting, while the rest of the dialogue is delivered unflinchingly and honestly. Occasional trickier to understand sentences come out, but these are easily guessed at when accompanied by the visual information given. As far as 2.0 soundtracks go, this is certainly one of the best this reviewer has heard. Very impressive.

  Extras
Contract

Tons of stuff to add a whole new depth to the film is included here. Firstly, the animated menus are in keeping with the flavour of the film, utilising nice staticky TV images. Thereís also a simple jacket picture included.

A very well made documentary taking us from the original play right through to the opening nights and cinema information follows. This runs for 37:07 and is comprehensive and informative, although some points seem to have been learned by rote for our director, who re-raises a handful of points in the audio commentary. The AC is however, very interesting, regardless of it being just the director. I usually find the lone commentator fairly uninteresting, but Woods speaks eloquently and delivers some well informed comment about the production, however, much like the film, it just stops at the end without fanfare or goodbyes.

Oh well, recover with the included short film entitled Tran the Man. This has a running length of 17:16 and is only in 4:3. Again featuring David Wenham in an earlier title role, this is a very nice inclusion. Particularly nice are the similarities to The Boys, and this is a very fitting and sterling inclusion that enhances the DVD's value very nicely.

Trailers follow and these are in two parts. They even get their own page and a brief bio of how they worked best in the theatre! I havenít seen that before, but am pleased they did that. It shows they donít just wanna fill the disc, but actually give us what we pay for. The soundtrack by The Necks is a worthy inclusion, but unfortunately only features two tracks that havenít been encoded with length information. However, I used my stopwatch and can give you a rough idea in Track 1: The Boys 1 running for around 4:26 and Track 2: He Led Them Into the World playing for about 9:49. Please note these times arenít accurate to the nth degree. Regardless of no official length, these are solid inclusions and have inspired me to track down the full soundtrack. Very impressive stuff indeed.

A couple of stills montages drop in next with both running as short films of a sort. The first is photos from the original play and is in black and white at 1.78:1 with 16:9 enhancement. It runs for 1:46, while the film stills one runs for 2:37. Again, this is 1.78:1 with 16:9 and features colour stills from the movie. Both have individual tracks from the soundtrack attached.

Finally, a bunch of propaganda trailers take us out nicely. These are all for Australian films which is a nice touch and include: The Bank, The Monkeyís Mask, Vigil, The Navigator, All Men are Liars and Sweetie.

So a packed disc with shitloads of extras make this DVD a fabulous investment.

  Overall  
Contract

While not being to everyoneís tastes, this film is nevertheless something everyone should witness. Some fine performances are delivered in this 85-minute descent into the maelstrom while the cinematography and transfer to DVD are superb. Impressive in every aspect, this is a quality production with a very generous collection of extras, a crystal clear delivery and a well cleaned soundtrack. If there is any failing here, itís in the stereo audio presentation, but given the claustrophobic nature of the house interior, this is still fitting and worthy.

While this film is gritty and ugly with a horrific subtext, the violence is limited and alluded to rather than reveled in. Being such a guttural film canít prevent me from adding this film to our elite band of DVDnet Gold titles as it has a reference quality transfer and is an all round excellent production. Stop reading, start watching.


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  •  DVD NET Gold Review List 
      And I quote...
    "Australian cinema doesnít get much more confronting than this electrifying production from 1998."
    - Jules Faber
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Nintaus DVD-N9901
    • TV:
          Sony 51cm
    • Receiver:
          Diamond
    • Speakers:
          Diamond
    • Surrounds:
          No Name
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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