Miramax/Buena Vista .
R4 . COLOR . 94 mins .
M15+ . PAL
The rather sleepy yokel shithole of West Village is happily plodding along planning its annual Fun Fest – complete with line dancing championship – when all hell breaks loose. People start turning up headless and rather dead – and people don’t have as much fun when there’s murders. A biker, a construction worker, a sailor, a cowboy and even an Indian have all met icky fates… obviously it’s some sort of serial killer with a predilection for camp ‘70s disco, right?
What's this button do?
Well, it may be obvious to us, but it takes constables Gary (Gary Eck) and Akmal (Akmal Saleh) almost until the end of the film to nut it out. Neither are the shiniest buttons on the uniform – Gary with his spray on hair, affection for line dancing, infinitesimal motorised scooter as transport and permanent lovesickness for local news reporter Julia; then Akmal, who simply can’t drive for shit but has a head for inventing whacked out film premises – so their rather cryptic, God-bothering chief calls in for some help from the Big Smoke – Sydney. Cue one Detective Tony Charles (Anthony Mir), a trigger-happy, big gun toting wannabe Don Johnson intent on hooning into this Podunk town in his Alfa (convertible, of course), solving the mystery and getting the girl all in one neat, fell little swoop. But things don’t necessarily go quite as planned (do they ever?) – can Gaz and Akmal catch the murderer before the last piece of the puzzle is bumped off, the (eep!) cop?
The thin blue line... dance.
In all it’s actually a quite snazzy little plotline for a silly comedy, and You Can’t Stop the Murders certainly is a silly comedy. The brainchild of stand-up comedians Eck, Saleh and Mir (who were obviously a tad bereft of inspiration when it came to character naming), it combines some quite traditional Aussie humour, some completely surreal humour (it comes as no surprise to spy Jimeoin and Bob Franklin popping up for quick cameos, not to mention all manner of Aussie stand-up staples including the Umbilical Brothers, ‘Sandman’, Haskel Daniel and Kitty Flanagan) and some often inspired timing to deliver some great giggles. Editing, too, is often quite sublime, making bits work which otherwise may not, however at other times it tends towards being somewhat flabby, where wielding that sharper razor would certainly have resulted in a better overall effect, with some subplots simply serving to confuse proceedings rather than add to them.
Now, keep your head my son...
The acting from these “newcomers” (they’ve actually been trundling about the stand-up circuit for many a moon), most notably Eck and Saleh, is really what makes YCSTM rise above being just another blink, miss it and you’ll lose no sleep local comedy. Their rapport and knack for playing off each other and obvious enthusiasm for their project lights up some scenes which would likely founder in lesser hands – just check out Gaz line-dancing his big ol’ heart out to Peter Allen’s I Go to Rio - although Mir’s Miami-obsessed detective is a little too shallow and uncomfy – still, he makes up for it more often than not with his direction, which is regularly quite innovative and entertaining in itself.
Alright, so YCSTM is quite a low budget film, however it’s still surprising just how average this transfer is. Riddled with grain more often than not and with more tiny speckles than anybody would generally expect from a release of such recent cinematic visiting, detail is never a word that really comes to mind, unless preceded by words such as “impeded” or “no”. OK, so it isn’t completely horrific, just nowhere near the standard we’ve come to expect from transfers nowadays. At least colour is quite true, offering lifelike skin tones and a typically Aussie look to surroundings – which you’d kind of expect from an Australian film. Hmm, OK, I’ll shut up now…
…well, except to say that it does all come home in an anamorphically enhanced, 1.78:1 package; close to the apparent original cinematic ratio of 1.85:1.
Where's Jan Hammer when you need him?
While the vision shows obvious signs of the sort of teensy budget a Packer wouldn’t even bother stooping to pick up off the footpath, the sound scrubs up a lot better. Options of Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 are provided, the first one offering up some pleasing whumps, thumps and bumps at times, utilising the subwoofwoof well, and also the rear speakers as effects shoom around our heads. Music, too, offers up some decent atmosphere, even the quite weedy Peter Allen tracks which pop up, whilst Jamie Fonti (once of Caligula – remember them?) contributes some interesting score work which suits the film’s vibe well. Synch is spot-on, and dialogue is generally easy to get the old head around.
Geez, the guys behind this are locals, you’d think somebody could stuff them in a recording studio for 94 minutes to record a commentary! But no, all we’re given is a photo gallery featuring 19 shots, mostly stills from the flick, as well as a reasonably snappy trailer (2:33) in full frame with standard stereo sound.
If you click with the slightly off-kilter comedic vibe going on in You Can’t Stop the Murders you’re sure to have more fun than a blue light disco – actually, that wouldn’t be hard, erm, more fun than the West Village Fun Fest - as long as you can get past any DVD transfer narc tendencies and overlook the many visual deficiencies. Meanwhile, we look forward to Akmal’s cinematic tale of a dumb guy with one all-conquering, super-smart talking sperm with much anticipation. We’ll pass on the postman short though…
Jack & Sarah "Proving that simplicity is no obstruction to brilliance, this is an ultimately sweet (but not sickeningly so) tale that gives all those bigger English films out there a more than respectable run for their money... "