SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2011
By Don Simpson | January 23, 2011
Director: Brendan Fletcher
Writer: Brendan Fletcher
Starring: Dean Daley-Jones, Greg Tait, Lucas Yeeda, Ngaire Pigram, Douglas Macale
TJ (Dean Daley-Jones) is a volcanic ex-con residing in Perth who has come to a point in his life that he finally wants to see his 13 year-old son, Bullet (Lucas Yeeda), whom he has never known. Bullet, who lives in the far off Kimberly region of northwestern Australia with his troubled mother Nella (Ngaire Pigram) who is quite the firecracker herself, is in dire need of a father figure, having just recently found himself in trouble with the law — who also happens to be his grandfather Tex (Greg Tait) — for burning down a neighborhood house with a Molotov cocktail. As TJ treks from Perth to Kimberly, Bullet is sent away to a two week survival camp in the bush to discover a new direction in life from an Aboriginal elder (John Watson).
TJ’s meandering quest by hitch-hiking and by foot takes him on a figurative walkabout across the remote and stunning Kimberley landscape. He encounters an eclectic array of Aboriginal characters who become his hosts on the long strange trip. The experience has a life-changing effect on TJ, but even the new and improved TJ still turns from a lovable lug to an Incredible Hulk as soon as his fiery rage is triggered.
Grandpa Tex has spent a majority of his life learning from the School of Hard Knocks too, but he has evolved into a softly spoken gentle man with a powerful brick house frame. Now that Tex is aged and experienced, he uses his authority as a local cop to help turn around the troubled lives of the males in his community.
The film’s title alludes to at least one of the root causes of the madness of these three inglorious bastards — they have all lacked a positive male role model in their lives. (It is impossible to ignore that economics, addiction and — although it is never overtly shown — racial discrimination are also major factors in their combustible personalities.) Producer-director-writer Brendan Fletcher’s Mad Bastards is a brutally realistic look at the journeys taken by three distinct generations of males to becoming mature and good men.
With a primarily Aboriginal cast of non-actors, Fletcher based Mad Bastards on his subjects’ real life stories. Several scenes play out more like a Robert Flaherty documentary than a work of pure fiction, and on that level Mad Bastards works brilliantly as an ethnographic study of the Aboriginal people of Kimberly.
But as a narrative film, the disjointed editing of Mad Bastards really drives me absolutely mad. It took me at least 15-20 minutes to even begin to adjust to the seemingly haphazard structure of the narrative; and it is not until TJ finally makes his arrival that the film really starts to flow in a sensible manner. I have no qualms with most cross-cutting narratives, but all of the jumping around in Mad Bastards really distracted — and at times, confused — me. I think what bugs me the most is that some scenes feel like they are cut way short only because Fletcher is too anxious to get to another location. This is by no means a reason not to see Mad Bastards though; Fletcher’s film is definitely worth checking out.
Mad Bastards will premiere at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition section and simultaneously on IFC Films On-Demand on January 24, 2011.