Film review – Mad Bastards

11 May 2011

Written by: Khairun Hamid

There’s a lot of stigma placed on the issues faced by Australia’s Indigenous communities but little has been done to really explore and understand where these issues stem from. Recent Indigenous films such as Bran Nue Dae and Samson and Delilah have helped to shed light on the realities faced by these communities. And now Mad Bastards, which was inspired by the oral stories of the Kimberley people, aims to do the same.

In his feature film debut, director Brendan Fletcher takes a raw look at the lives of some deeply troubled Indigenous characters and their continuous struggle with violence, alcoholism and broken families.

Set mainly in the majestic Kimberley region of North Western Australia Mad Bastards follows TJ (Dean Daley-Jones), a hard-drinking ex-con, as he makes the physical and emotional journey to meet his 13-year-old son, Bullet (Lucas Yeeda) for the first time. Bullet’s mother Nella (Ngaire Pigram) has her hands full, juggling her pyromaniac son, abusive partners and alcoholism. Nella’s father Texas (Greg Tait) is the local cop and takes it upon himself to set a good example and help improve his community’s situation.

The stories of these characters are almost one and the same, as each has his or her own demons but ultimately wants to conquer them for the benefit of the family. I should warn you; this film does not tiptoe around the issue. Anyone with aversions to violence and coarse language should probably stay away, as most of these characters do not use delicate language. I think that’s the beauty of these ‘mad bastards’ – the characters, the stories and performances are all so raw.

The cast is made up of non-professional actors, many of whom have lived the stories they’re portraying on-screen. I particularly loved Greg Tait’s turn as one of the only positive male role models in the movie, as well as Douglas Macale as the adorable Uncle Black. But overall, the actors’ performances were honest and refreshing and add to the authenticity of the film. Make sure you sit tight for their candid interviews at the end.

The film is scored throughout by the beautiful melodies of the Pigram Brothers, which at times felt a little more Hawaii than Kimberley, but provided a certain dreaminess and hope to the bleak storyline. This distinctive soundtrack also helped to tie in the many contrasts between settings and events throughout the film.

Mad Bastards really gives the audience an intimate look at an aspect of Australian society that most of us would not normally be exposed to. It’s confronting, heart-warming and enlightening. I found myself completely immersed in the journey and, in the end, I was as hopeful about these characters as they were.

Khairun Hamid is studying a Master of Global Communications at La Trobe University and is part of the 2011 upstart editorial team. She recently traded in Perth’s sunny beaches for Melbourne’s bright lights.