Erskineville Kings (1999, Alan White)

Okay, so Marty Denniss is a playwright. Erskineville Kings makes some more sense. Not a lot more sense, but some. It’s a peculiar picture, a human drama with a lot of dialogue–it’s set over a day–and it’s all in a few indoor locations. But Denniss, the writer, emphasizes himself, the actor, as the protagonist, when he’s really quite boring. Denniss’s character only works because Denniss is such a mediocre actor. He delivers his lines naturally, but the guy comes off like a complete idiot. He’s a dullard, which is interesting, because he’s supposedly the smart brother (as opposed to Hugh Jackman’s macho man).

It’s a problematic film–White loves color, which is great and the picture’s vibrant and compelling to look at it–but there are all these strange walking sequences, apparently included to get the running time over eighty minutes. They should have left them out and embraced Kings as an extended short subject.

The walking scenes, around the desolate, empty town, would mean something if Erskineville was a real place. But it isn’t–and Denniss, the writer, doesn’t do any work to make the viewer care about this down on its luck small city.

Jackman’s performance is incredible; the film succeeds because of him. It’s not even a leading man performance, as Denniss poorly gives himself that role.

The supporting cast, Andrew Wholley, Aaron Blabey and Joel Edgerton, is excellent.

Denniss’s script has some great dialogue and is paced well. It’s the concept, not the execution.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Alan White; written by Marty Denniss; director of photography, John Swaffield; edited by Jane Moran; music by Don Miller-Robinson; production designer, Andrew Horne; produced by Julio Caro and White; released by Palace Films.

Starring Marty Denniss (Barky), Hugh Jackman (Wace), Andrew Wholley (Coppa), Aaron Blabey (Tunny), Joel Edgerton (Wayne), Leah Vandenberg (Lanny), Marin Mimica (Kane), Lauren Clair (Ruby), Louise Birgan (Natasha) and Roy Billing as the ticket officer.


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