Next up in the list of great Australian movies you need to see, we’ve got the dark comedy Down Under.
Yep, you guessed it: It’s patriotic o’clock here at Digital Fox. In the first episode of Awesome Aussie Movies You’ve (Probably) Never Seen, we drooled over the epicness of Animal Kingdom. But guess what? Australia has made more than one good film!
Even though we may choose to watch ingeniously crafted and highly created Hollywood movies like Suicide Squad instead (if I need to point it out, this is sarcasm), the reality is, Aussie movies rock – and they’re just getting better.
In this week’s instalment of great Aussie movies, we dive into 2016’s dark comedy about the Cronulla Riots, Down Under.
What is Down Under’s plot?
Down Under is actually set in the immediate aftermath of the Cronulla Riots, in a time where everyone felt confused, ashamed, and pissed off. The characters in this movie tend to follow the more ‘pissed off’ trend.
The line-up of Aussie racists includes Jason (Damon Herriman), a husband with two kids and one on the way; Ditch (Justin Rosniak), Ned Kelly’s biggest fan; Shit-Stick (Alexander England), a soft-spoken video store clerk; and Evan (Chris Bunton), shit-stick’s cousin who suffers from down-syndrome.
Sick of having anyone who wasn’t on The First Fleet even looking at their turf (The Shire), these Aussie bloked are thirsty for revenge, deciding to patrol the streets in search for “Lebs” to bash.
The issue is, they’re not the only ones with the idea. A group of Lebanese men have also teamed up, hoping to bash some Aussies who want to bash them. Here we have Nick (Rahel Romahn), a closet homosexual/meth-dealer/ring-leader; D-Mac (Fayssal Bazzi), a beat-boxing wannabe rapper; Hassim (Lincoln Younes), a hard-worker who gets roped into the blood thirst; and Ibrahim (Michael Denkha), Hassim’s uncle who’s down for a visit from Lebanon.
The film then splits into these two parallel narratives, with the two groups experiencing hilarious shenanigan after hilarious shenagian, before an inevitable climactic encounter.
What makes the Down Under movie so good?
The Cronulla Riots are an odd setting for a comedy, to say the least. In one of the most shameful days of Australia’s recent history, hordes of Australians took to the Cronulla Beach with racist slogans and chants, before the violence spread with mob-like attacks, as envisaged in this film. And Down Under even starts with real footage of the riots, depicting topless Australians brandishing signs like “You flew here, we grew here”.
Director Abe Forsythe uses comedy to highlight a truth.
The crazy thing is though, the contrast between the riots and comedy genuinely works. Why, you say? Well, I’m glad you asked. The reality is, despite obviously being horribly ugly, there is something strangely funny racism. And this is mainly due to the hypocrisies, which Forsythe so fantastically points out.
Throughout the movie we witness the two supposedly opposite groups unwittingly dabbling in a mix of fantastic double standards. For example, when the Aussies are hungry, they head to eat kebabs. They listen to music from the opposite regions. Hassim’s weapon of choice is a bloody cricket bat! And the most striking critique of the parallels that Forsythe draws is in the imagery of Australian outlaw hero Ned Kelly and the Burqa… but I won’t give away any spoilers because I’m a legend.
Down Under’s comedy is also just good comedy.
Even if up until now you’ve been reading and thinking, ‘Nah, that doesn’t sound like my scene, and also JBM is a really bad writer’, I would say fair enough and then also cry. But what makes Down Under so brilliant is that, even if you don’t think you’d enjoy a movie about a dark period of Australia’s history, you’d still enjoy it for its humour.
Down Under really is a laugh per-minute kinda thing. It’s so funny and absurd that it’s very easy to forget what the film’s subject matter really is.
And because of that, Forsythe has made a usually hard-to-palette topic inviting and engaging for all audiences. This is both difficult and so important for an issue like this, which needs to be understood and grappled with by everyday Australians.
And the ending…
Chill out, I’m not doing any spoilers. But holy fuck, the ending messed me up. ‘Nuff said.
What is Down Under similar to?
American History X
Edward Norton is a neo-Nazi who does some pretty fucked up shit and then realises he was kind of a dickhead and tries to steer his brother from the same path. It also has some incredible movieness in between. If I need to clarify, this one doesn’t have any comedy.
An Aussie classic, The Castle may not share similar political messages to Down Under, but it does share its style of iconic Australian humour. Telling the story of a family being pressured to leave their beloved family home for the airport expansion, this is satire to the max.
This is England
Although it isn’t Australian (you can probably guess where it’s from by the title), This is England shares many of the same themes as Down Under. It follows a young boy who gets caught up in the criminal world of racist skinheads in the 1980s. It’s so good it probably deserves an article for itself.
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
Another English flick (as you can tell I like British movies too), Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is a farcical crime comedy about a group of hustlers and criminals. I’ve chucked it on the list because, one, it’s awesome; and two, it is stylistically similar to Down Under in that it is absurd and chaotic, where parallel storylines fittingly intersect.