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  Directed by
  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • English: Dolby Digital Stereo
  • Commentary - English: Dolby Digital Stereo
  • None
  • Additional footage
  • 6 Theatrical trailer
  • Audio commentary - Director, Producer and Author/Co-Screenwriter
  • 12 Cast/crew biographies
  • Featurette
  • Photo gallery
  • Animated menus
  • Behind the scenes footage
  • Interviews
  • Outtakes

Australian Rules

20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 94 mins . M15+ . PAL


Australian cinema just seems to go from strength to strength these days, and Paul Goldman’s Australian Rules maintains that strong excellence. Set in the arid wastes of the South Australian coastal town of Prospect Bay, Gary ‘Blackie’ Black is a white teenager with the weight of a town’s racism on his shoulders.

He plays for the local Australian rules side and half the team is made up of aborigines from the outlying mission. Blackie’s best friend is Dumby Red, the aboriginal star of the team and between the two of them they have forged an unusual friendship among this barely-disguised segregated town. At home, Blackie endures the sneering violence of his father, a shallow man making his living from fishing. Blackie’s sensitivity and love of books has been instilled by his mother, but is not an adequate means of manhood in his father’s eyes. She too, must endure the horrors of her husband, though manages to find a cheerful resilience within her that affects her children positively, rather than negatively.

The atmosphere of the town reaches fever-pitch when the team makes it to the grand final, and it is after the match that events in this redneck wonderland explode, affecting all residents.

"Kicking goals? That’s gonna win us a lot of bloody grand finals, innit? Kicking goals!"

Growing up in a small town myself and having a black best friend, I could relate a lot to the story portrayed in Australian Rules. Beneath the surface can lie an overfed hostility in Australia that is at once disturbing and disgusting. I lived in a region in which Pauline Hanson was regarded as a celebrity and worthy of opening shows and such - in fact, just a district or two away from the electorate in which she swept to power (with her fraudulent documents, as it turns out). It isn’t a pretty place to have an opinion and a wish for social justice. The irony, however, is in the fact there are so few aborigines in that area. I have also spent three years living in far Northern Queensland where the population is far more mixed, yet was saddened to see the detrimental treatment of aborigines there in one of the world’s most beautiful places. More irony.

Australian Rules manages to make us laugh or angry or sad at any point it likes and it tells the shocking truths that must exist in Australia, without pulling punches or hinting at them. Parts of this film are sickening, yet beneath it runs the undercurrent of the Australia we can all recognise, and here that’s the saddest thing of all.

We’d all like to think of ourselves as a country free from prejudice (down here where neighbours are few), but the characters in this film are all people we have met or know or possibly even are, and that’s why this film is so important and so telling.


The cinematic ratio of 1.85:1 has been preserved here and has been given a 16:9 enhancement for good measure. This aspect works nicely for the amazing wide-open skies and deep desert vistas so prevalent in the film. The cinematography is just beautiful, capturing rural coastal Australia perfectly, and utilising a brown filter to just take the sunny edge off. This works well to create a slightly murkier setting for the murky events that unfold. Colours are all nice and even with nothing too outstanding or garish and the blacks remain true. That being said, the shadows get a little too deep and don’t give up their details, though the majority of the film is daylit. Flesh tones are excellent here as well with the broad colour range of aborigines through to white folks all looking nice and even. Being such a recent film there are only very rare instances of artefacts and you may only see them if you're looking for them. Overall a nice video transfer.


Given the choice of Dolby Digital 5.1 surround for the equipped or DD stereo for the TV-only gang, there’s something for everyone. The dialogue is all nice and clear which includes some Aboriginal (which unfortunately, I can’t speak). The sound effects cover a fairly wide array and are all well synched and well balanced. When using music to portray a mood it’s important to have a good score and this one is pretty awesome. Scored by Mick Harvey (from Nick Cave’s Bad Seeds) it is used to be comical, menacing or mournful, according to the story. It is quite even and is a nice addition to the soundscape without dominating or overshadowing the dialogue. One final point; there is a quiet moment between Blackie and Clarence, the girl who has caught his eye, where they share a cigarette and the sound of its burning is so clear and realistic it just sounds amazing. Ultra clear and fantastic audio.


What a swag included on this one. Firstly the disc just looks awesome as it opens into some nicely and simply animated menus, but as we choose screens and extras to view, it looks like a very slick production and should be included as another feather in the cap of Fox Studios.

Our first extra is a behind the scenes featurette that runs for 14 minutes and features interviews with many of the cast. It’s presented 4:3, but unfortunately contains some unnecessarily long clips from the movie. Then there are six and a half minutes of outtakes which are not so much outtakes as scene insurance that wasn’t used. A bit flimsy really and runs under the film score mostly, though there is some dialogue thrown in.

There’s a brief interview done for the cable Channel V at two minutes 20. followed by the very well made international trailer and the Australian trailer at two minutes 30. Following those is the photo gallery, which is mostly still shots taken of the action during filming and doesn’t appear to be just stills. Nine actors from the film and three upper echelon crew get biographies after that and then ten more brief character files gives us a quick look at who the main characters in the film are. This reads a bit like an excerpt from the treatment, but is still an interesting inclusion.

Finally, all that remains are four DVD trailers for other Palace films. These include the excellent Erskinville Kings plus Yolngu Boy, the forthcoming Rage in Placid Lake and The Best Man’s Wedding. A pretty thick wad of extras that fill out this disc nicely, giving us plenty more to go on with once the film is done.


Australian Rules is a must see for Australians everywhere. The book this film is based on, Deadly, Unna?, is still a popular book in high school curriculums and has won a plethora of awards in its own right. Delivering some hard-edged performances and dealing well with some touchy concepts, Australian Rules introduces us to a large contingent of what will become the next wave of young Australian actors. The story is dynamic and appealing and delivers a message we all need to hear again and again until it finally sinks in.

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      And I quote...
    "This genre-defying and excellent film brings to light some disturbing Australian traits with humour, warmth and alarm."
    - Jules Faber
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