(Jon Hewitt, Australia, 1999)


Some bad Australian films march quietly into oblivion. Redball is determined to go there kicking and screaming.

Writer-director Jon Hewitt, "self-professed maverick", compares himself shamelessly to Lars von Trier and Abel Ferrara, and offers Redball up as both "the ultimate indie Australian feature film" and a work of art – as opposed to the pure exploitation fare of his previous, video-release effort, Bloodlust (1991), co-directed with the equally talented Richard Wolstencroft (Pearls Before Swine, 2000).

Shot on video and initially self-financed, Redball proudly bares the fangs of feral filmmaking. Unfortunately, none of this promotional guff keeps it from being irredeemably dreadful on every level.

Redball begins from a serious subject – the immense psychological strain suffered by cops in a world increasingly wracked by the most horrific violence and corruption. Inevitably, these law enforcers become tainted by the sickness around them, turning to arrangements with the criminal world and deranged, amoral behaviour.

Sadly, nothing in this fractured, meandering, derivative narrative has the slightest ring of dramatic truth. Its stylistic homages to von Trier et al quickly become tiresome: the hand-held camera lurches and rocks, while every second cut is accompanied by a booming, industrial-music drone.

Of the principal cast, only Belinda McClory (The Matrix, 1999), as a cop on the edge, appreciates the cinematic value of staying still and silent once in a while.

For the most part, the action in Redball has the flavour of a bad improv class. A procession of public radio, alternative theatre and counter-culture personalities turns proceedings into a facsimile of amateur night in Brunswick Street – and evokes memories of a thematically similar but more pleasingly eccentric local oddity, James Clayden's With Time to Kill (1987).

© Adrian Martin April 1999

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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