For a nation that loves its sport, we don’t seem to be much cop at making movies about it. Perhaps there’s a general malaise in the air, what with our Olympic swimming team having performed so badly (in mores ways than one) and Australia’s cricketing glory falling apart at the seams?
Clunky clichés and seriously dodgy sexual politics sunk AFL flick Blinder well before half time, siphoning off any thrills and leaving us with stale boredom. Alas, Drift, a surfing caper set in the 70s, also sinks without a trace.
Focusing on two brothers, Andy (Myles Pollard, X-Men: Origins) and Jimmy (Xavier Samuel, Twilight: Eclipse, Anonymous), Drift begins with the young lads fleeing their abusive father with their mother Kat (Robyn Malcolm), driving cross country from Sydney to a surf-obsessed WA town.
As they set up a small shop, crafting their own wetsuits and surfboards, the kernel of a successful business is sown, but then almost lost as a bikie gang and drug smuggling is thrown into the mix.
In other hands, there could be an engaging tale here, but the script by TV actor Morgan O’Neill is a dreary dull and clunky affair that skips lightly over any of the substance, under bakes its characters and layers on the cliché.
O’Neill co-directs with Ben Nott, and you can’t help but feel a little experience behind the wheel would have helped, or at least a more inspiring approach, as there’s a wealth of emerging filmmakers creating truly engaging cinema in Australia.
Sure, the surf scenes and coastal panoramas are gorgeously shot, but barring a few enthusiastic turns, there’s not much going on here. Sam Worthington is the biggest offender, with the ‘star power’ shipped in seriously under-delivering, in a painfully archetypal stoner surfie role.
The brothers make little mark, with the disparity between their ages telling, despite supposedly both in their twenties. Lesley-Ann Brandt makes the best of what little she has to work with as the love interest all the way from Hawaii. Malcolm imbues heart to scant bones and newcomer Aaron Glenane is likeable, but sadly saddled with the least-developed and most predictable arc.
Characters repeatedly laugh at non-existent or at least deeply unfunny jokes, as if desperately attempting to hoodwink the audience into chuckling along, and there are a fair few clunkers, like a commentator announcing surf contestants from as far afield as “Hawaii to the US of A.” Time to invest in a few geography lessons, methinks.
Stretched over a tortuous two hours, there were audible groans in my screening, but surf lovers are bound to enjoy this. They’ll be hoping it kicks more goals at the box office than the dud Blinder did, but the truth is, this lazily amateur affair doesn’t really deserve it.
Stephen A Russell