In the old pawnbroker's in the heart of Melbourne's Footscray, world weary Les Underwood (John Brumpton) watches as the lives of people who come through his door collide, change and unravel. From blossoming romance to desperate last gambles, these twelve people's stories represent the best and the worst of one day in the life of this mixed up suburb.
Review by Louise Keller:
A cluttered Melbourne pawnbroker shop is the nucleus of this gritty slice of life drama, where hopes are raised and dashed, while revelations expose and surprise. The beauty of the film is its raw honesty: it's like being there people watching, as a melee of colourful characters dip in and out of the narrative. It's an impressive directing debut for Paul Ireland, who developed the script with actor and first time screenwriter Damian Hill, one of the film's stars. There is a real sense of place - both in the pawnshop itself and in the streets of surrounding Footscray - where everyday life goes on for better or for worse.
Central to the action is John Brumpton's Les Underwood, the gruff tough pawnbroker who is all business and little compassion. We get the impression that he has seen it all, like the scene in which he tells his offsider Damian (Hill) to close the shop's front door, after which he proceeds without hesitation to violently deal with a threatening customer. But he has another side too, which is one of the film's little surprises.... This is Brumpton at his best, creating a character that goes from restrained to furious. Uncompassionate yet non judgmental. Hill is also good, projecting an appealing naivety as the pawnbroker's gopher, who walks the dog, makes the tea and tows the line. But there is more to Damian than meets the eye, including his romantic aspirations and another of the film's surprises.
We become involved to varying degrees with all the characters that enter the shop. There are those who come in just for a chat, like Harry (Tony Rickards), who seemingly has it all, or Paige the transvestite (Daniel Frederiksen) who is all mouth when it comes to dealing with jeering strangers in the street, but highly vulnerable when no-one is looking. The subplot involving Damian's dreamgirl Kate (Maeve Dermody, lovely), the girl from the bookshop around the corner is the best developed and I like the story strand involving Lai (Ngoc Phan) from the nearby Asian takeaway. It has humour and a wonderful sense of the unexpected.
The lengthy verbal discourse between Pauly (Mark Coles Smith) and Carlo (Malcolm Kennard) drags, although there is a small pay off to their opportunistic involvement with heavy-chain wearing thug Jason (Brad McMurray). Kerry Armstrong appears briefly as a distressed mother looking for her son, while John Orcsik is terrific as Tony Robinson, the man with a video camera and something to hide. Naomi Rukavina is appealing as the bookshop girl with bruises, but her story has to rest on suggestion alone.
Most of the action takes place in and around the pawnshop, with an accent on the many diverse elements of the neighbourhood, like the vibrant dreadlock-wearing African dummers who beat up a storm outside a shop. Most effective is Hill's concept to reveal the characters in their 'real' environments at the end, allowing us to peak beneath the veneer, shattering any preconceptions we may have made. It's a vivid insight and an interesting window into life.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Through the particular to the universal ... it's a notion that serves filmmakers well and as
writer Daman Hill shows, it can be a useful filmmaking tool to portray a variety of the human condition. His pawn shop is where Les Underwood plays a duel role of self serving sinner as well as occasional saint. I don't mind the contradictions in his character; they smack of real life. I also appreciate John Brumpton's characterisation as an edgy, complex and unpredictable money lender of last resort.
Likewise, the characters that pop in and out of the shop - mostly regulars - are given dimension and life by some talented actors, writer Hill among them as Les' shop slightly troubled and shy assistant, Danny. Maeve Darmody is terrific as Kate, the shop assistant at a nearby book store who catches Danny's eye, and Naomi Rukavina is a delight as her lonely heart colleague Holly.
Malcolm Kennard as Carlo and Mark Coles Smith as Pauly make a dynamic couple as street-wise friends, boisterous yet silently sad, as is Daniel Frederiksen as the joyfully named transsexual, Paige Turner. Ngoc Phan is a hoot as Vietnamese cafe owner and not so secret girlfriend of Les, while Brad McMurray is great as the hulking, angry Jason who doesn't end up a happy pawno customer.
These and the other supporting characters all have a dark shadow that creeps up on them in some form, even worried mum Jennifer, movingly played by Kerry Armstrong.
The screenplay is not so much a story as a series of snapshots of these people, although the gently budding romance between Danny and Kate provides a through-line of sorts - and the way to retrieve the film's bleak descent into darkness. Yet the performances elevate the film, as does Paul Ireland's sensitive, no nonsense direction.
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JOHN BRUMPTON INTERVIEW
CAST: John Brumpton, Kerry Armstrong, Tony Rickards, Damian Hill, Mal Kennard, Maeve Dermody, Mark Coles Smith, Daniel Frederiksen, Ngoc Phan, Naomi Rukavina, Mark Silveira, John Orcsik, Brad McMurray
PRODUCER: Damian Hill, Paul Ireland
DIRECTOR: Paul Ireland
SCRIPT: Damian Hill
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Shelley Farthing-Dawe
EDITOR: Gary Woodyard
MUSIC: Tristan Dewey, Tai Jordan
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Tyler Chalker
RUNNING TIME: 86 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Mind Blowing World
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 21, 2016