Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Cactus (DVD Review)

Photo - Courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment

Writer/Dir: Jasmine Yuen-Carrucan - feature film directorial debut
Cast: Travis McMahon, David Lyons, Bryan Brown, Shane Jacobson
Australia, 2010

Reason to see: My love of Australian film has been growing exponentially over the past year

Cactus is an Australian crime thriller that follows the transportation of an abduction. It's amazing that a film centred on such a harsh idea isn't really about the harshness but rather a study of human nature, the choices people make and the lengths they are willing to go. One of the things I loved about it was there was always a sense of humanity. It's harsh, but not brutal. It's frank, but not frightful. It's honest, but not mean.

It's a film that is a bit of a challenge to review, especially from a spoiler-free perspective because how the story unfolds is so beautifully done. I think going in blind to the film is the best way to go, but I can tell you that it's a road movie with a small primary cast (Travis McMahon & David Lyons), it's beautifully shot, has great storytelling and fantastic use of tension. The film supporting cast includes the familiar faces of Bryan Brown and Shane Jacobson.

A film with such a small cast relies heavily on the writing and the actors, and with Cactus we luck out because both are phenomenal. You know when you see a film and you feel like it must be based on a play because it's so tight in terms of how the story plays out and the depth and complexity of characters? That's what we get here, but it's an original story from writer/director Jasmine Yuen-Carrucan, where Cactus is her feature film directorial debut! I was floored when I found out that out, and also that it's from a female director considering the main cast is all men. And manly men at that. But everything in the film works perfectly.

Travis McMahon is absolutely amazing as John, and he brings such a harsh realism to the character while always maintaining an undercurrent of reigned in and elusive emotion that keeps you continually curious about his character. David Lyons plays the subtly smarmy Eli, and it's fascinating to watch his characters journey through the film because you can literally see him working the angles, testing and trying things out. The strength of their performances is what the film rides on, and believe me it's a ride you will want to take.

All in all, Cactus is a perfect film. Every moment, choice, shot, sound and performance was perfect. I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend it.

DVD Extras:
  • Audio Commentary with writer/director Jasmine Yuen-Carrucan, producer Paul Sullivan, DP Florian Emmerich and composer Nerida Tyson-Chew. Really interesting commentary that has a nice balance of discussing the technical side of filmmaking, how certain effects were achieved, the themes and decisions in the film, influences, challenges and funny stories along the way. I'd likely listen to it again!
  • The Making of Cactus (30 minutes) including behind the scenes footage, film clips, and interviews with Jasmine Yuen-Carrucan, executive producer/actor Bryan Brown, producer Paul Sullivan, DP Florian Emmerich and actors Travis McMahon, David Lyons and Shane Jacobson. I really enjoyed this making of, people talk about what drew them into the project, the strength of the script, what it was like working together and the actors talk about their characters in nice detail.
  • Trailer
Cactus is available on DVD as of February 15, 2011. Check it out over at Amazon.ca

Shannon's Overall View:
It's perfect. I loved it.
I'll watch it again
I highly & widely recommend it, although fair warning to those sensitive to abduction films

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© Shannon Ridler, 2011

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