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  Directed by
    None Listed
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 2.46:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
    English - Hearing Impaired
  Extras
  • Deleted scenes - 17 minutes
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Audio commentary - Matthew George and Lachy Hulme
  • Animated menus

Let's Get Skase

Village Roadshow/Roadshow Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 96 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

It seems like just a few days ago that this reviewer was happily championing the wonderful vitality and creative adventure of independent Australian films. And why not? Screw patriotism - this is about good cinema, the kind of film you don’t see from anywhere else. Mullet. The Dish. Alex Proyas’s little-seen Spirits Of The Air, Gremlins Of The Clouds (a DVD of that one would be nice, by the way, if the rights holders happen to be reading!). Dogs In Space. The Monkey’s Mask. The Year My Voice Broke and its follow-up Flirting. None of those could have come from anywhere else, and all of them are remarkable in their own way, along with dozens of others (we haven’t even mentioned ‘70s classics from Fred Schepisi, Bruce Beresford or Peter Weir). Though the Cannes crowd might not be in the mood for Australian cinema at the moment, rest assured it’s still very much alive and healthy.

But then there’s that other breed of local movie, the kind that’s made with all the best intentions but ultimately comes across as awkward, clumsy and over-ambitious. There are dozens of them littering the back shelves of film distributors nationwide, and at their worst they can be awful. Let’s Get Skase doesn’t quite qualify for shelf space with the likes of them, but for its first tedious 50 minutes it comes perilously close.

Inspired by the now-infamous Andrew Denton “Chase For Skase” campaign that started as typically sarcastic Denton TV humour and went on to actually be taken so seriously by everybody the federal government had to make statements on it, Let’s Get Skase is a great idea spoilt by a somewhat half-arsed back-story. The problem, essentially, is that writer-director Matthew George and co-writer and lead actor Lachy Hulme read the mood of wider Australia as though it were a nation comprised entirely of them. Sure, a good percentage of the population was pissed off at Christopher Skase’s extended Majorcan holiday, and most of them never lost a cent to the man and his schemes. But by the time Let’s Get Skase was in production interest in what had become a repetitive news story was already waning, and by the time the film finally hit cinemas Skase was earning the default sympathy that’s reserved for the dead. Meanwhile, people were busy being pissed off at other things, like Telstra, John Howard, the widening poverty gap, corporate greed in general and, of course, banks. Skase might have been a bastard (or he might have been a jolly spiffing chap – legal dept.) but by 2001 he was just one bastard amongst dozens, and was a lot harder to accuse of being a bastard due to his not being especially of this earth any longer.

George and Hulme’s basic premise is a tough sell in the first place. Restaurant owner Peter Dellasandro (Hulme) is going broke and desperately needs to pay creditors. A confessed bastard himself, Dellasandro figures that he might make some cash out of organizing a mission to kidnap fugitive businessman Christopher Skase and bring him back to Australia. With this in mind he pulls together a rag-tag bunch of misfits who will first train for and then execute a mission to get Skase and bring him back to face the music. All well and good – except that we never actually get to know Dellasandro and we certainly don’t get close to liking him. As an underdog, he’s just a bit too much of a smartarse – and while the theory goes that all of Australia loves a smartarse, the reality is that all of Australia wants to throw empty beer bottles at every one they encounter.

And so for over half the movie we wait for Dellasandro to get his plan together, and wait for the laughs (this is, after all, supposed to be a comedy). But while reasonably well made, the film plods along aimlessly hoping that we care about the characters, until it arrives at a ludicrous tear-jerker scene that would have been hilarious if not for the fact that it’s obviously meant to actually move us. After this low point, though, things get better, as the mission to get Skase gets under way and the movie shifts up a few gears. Suddenly there are funny moments, clever bits, some neato special effects, funny dialogue and a very convincing Skase impersonator. It’s like you’re watching a different movie, and for a while there it’s such good fun you can almost forgive everything that came before. Almost.

On the film’s release last year, director Mathew George publicly criticised Victoria’s government film development organisation Cinemedia for turning his movie down (it was eventually produced in Perth with the help of ScreenWest). Their reasons, he said, included the underdevelopment of the script and the lead character, a suggestion that understandably outraged George. But ultimately, that is the problem here; without a character we can get to know and care about, and without that character having a back-story and motivations that mean something to the audience, the core of the film – the outrage and sense of righteous justice we’re supposed to be feeling – just doesn’t click. Which is a shame – because Let’s Get Skase, well made with all the best intentions, could easily have been cracking good fun throughout.

  Video
Contract

Let’s Get Skase appears to have been shot in the Super 35 format, and is presented in a 16:9 enhanced video transfer that mattes the film slightly tighter than its 2.35:1 theatrical ratio. It measures up at about 2.46:1, with the letterboxed film image placed slightly higher than centre in the on-screen frame. This is something that’s been done before, but usually on foreign-language subtitled films, to allow room for two lines of subtitles in the lower black area of the frame without obscuring the picture. That seems to be the case here as well, though the reason for the tighter cropping of the film frame is not clear.

The transfer itself is bright, vibrant and very appealing to look at, presenting the film with a cheerful look that’s well in keeping with the mood of the story. Detail is excellent and colour saturation is superb, though perfectionists might complain about the occasional grainy shot (there are very few). Shadow detail is good where there actually are shadows to be detailed (which is mainly in the last act of the film, where the CGI material is also extremely well transferred).

Contrary to the packaging and the disc label, this is a single-layered DVD (the text “SSD DVD5” on the disc surface itself is something of a giveaway there!) and as a result there is no layer change, making the “slight pause” warning on the back cover irrelevant. Considering that the film and its extras are compressed onto a single layer, kudos must go to the authoring team, who use a very low average bitrate but have absolutely no problems at all with compression artefacts. Or to put it another way, to coin what’s fast becoming a catchphrase around here, this disc is “Roadshow good”!

  Audio
Contract

If you have neighbours that hate you, be afraid - because this Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is purely obnoxious. Reasonably well recorded (though there are a few instances of very noticeable distortion in the left surround at times), it offers the film’s dialogue at a fairly standard listening level, with the actual frequency response of the location-recorded speech generally better than that of most current major-studio soundtracks.

But if you set your amp to a nice dialogue-listening level, you’re going to get pinned to the back wall every time the sound mixers throw in an action scene of any kind. The dynamic range of this soundtrack is huge – way too huge for practical listening outside of a cinema. The vast contrast between dialogue and effects/music volume makes for a very unnatural sound experience, too. While the soundtrack is occasionally quite lurid in its use of the surrounds and subwoofer, for the most part it’s very front-focussed audio. There is little in the way of atmospheric immersion during the quieter scenes – but then, we had to wind the volume down low during these scenes just to make the louder bits of the film comfortable, so the few atmospheric noises we did hear may just have been the early stages of tinnitus.

  Extras
Contract

The animated main menu (with a very loud opening sound effect!) leads to a handful of extra features that are nevertheless good value for those who are into the film.

Audio Commentary: Director Matthew George and lead actor Lachy Hulme sit down to watch their film and chat about it, and they appear to be doing so in a slightly noisy environment rather than a recording studio. They’re actually very good at this commentary caper and this is a very listenable, detailed effort that’s well worth the time. It initially sounds a little disconcerting; you realise eventually that this is due to the film’s audio not being present at all, not even quietly in the background.

Deleted Scenes: And plenty of ‘em. Seventeen and a half minutes’ worth of them to be precise, with fairly average 4:3 letterboxed picture quality (but decent enough quality considering these are deleted scenes). While some of these deserved their fate, there are scenes here that would have fleshed out the film’s characters a bit more and made the entire thing a bit more involving had they been included. There’s no chapter encoding here, which is a bit annoying if you later want to find a scene late in this section.

Theatrical Trailer: The theatrical trailer, 16:9 enhanced with non-surround-flagged 2.0 audio.

  Overall  
Contract

A fun idea that ultimately doesn’t work as well as it should, Let’s Get Skase is extremely well made for its small budget but is lacking in the story and character departments, though it makes up for all of that somewhat in its last half hour. Roadshow’s DVD is typically excellent, and gives fans of the film some good solid extras to play with along with terrific picture quality but a somewhat overblown sound mix.

Interestingly, though originally scheduled for release on May 22nd this disc is now listed by EzyDVD as having been “delayed due to mastering problems”; exactly what those problems are is unknown, but we’ll try and find out and add any further info here as it comes to hand.


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      And I quote...
    "A fun idea that ultimately doesn’t work as well as it should..."
    - Anthony Horan
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Sony DVP-NS300
    • TV:
          Panasonic - The One
    • Receiver:
          Sony STR-DB870
    • Speakers:
          Klipsch Tangent 500
    • Centre Speaker:
          Panasonic
    • Surrounds:
          Jamo
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Monster s-video
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