Posted November 3, 2011 by David Watson in Films
 
 

Snowtown


When sexually abused, alienated teen Jamie (Lucas Pittaway) meets his mother Liz’s (Louise Harris) charismatic new beau John Bunting (Daniel Henshall), life seems to be looking up.

When
sexually abused, alienated teen Jamie (Lucas Pittaway) meets his mother Liz’s
(Louise Harris) charismatic new beau John Bunting (Daniel Henshall), life seems
to be looking up.

Poor white trash, Jamie and his brothers eke out a
miserable, precarious existence in one of the more deprived, seedy areas of
Adelaide, blighted by drug and alcohol abuse, poverty and sexual abuse, preyed
on by older siblings and predatory kiddie fiddling neighbours.

Charming, funny, generous and thoughtful, if a bit rough
around the edges, John offers a much-needed positive, masculine role model to
Jamie and his brothers who are sorely in need of a father figure.

With a pathological hatred of paedophiles, bullies and
wasters, it’s no wonder Jamie sees in John a surrogate father and mentor;
someone who’ll teach him to be a man.
John is exactly the kind of fair dinkum, rugged individualist that built
Australia and seems to be the first adult male who appears genuinely interested
in the vulnerable, damaged Jamie who doesn’t want to bum him.

He’s also a white-hot psychopath; the self-appointed,
homophobic leader of his own gang of vigilantes determined to cleanse Adelaide
of paedos, fags, junkies and other undesirables. What starts of as a little harmless harassment of the local
kiddie fiddler (throwing ice cream cones at his house, daubing his porch with
kangaroo guts) soon escalates into more overt violence however as Jamie starts
noticing a lot of people around the neighbourhood have gone missing. John has plans for Jamie though, big
plans…

Based on the horrific true story of the prolific gang of
serial killers who shocked Australia, Snowtown
is one of the chilliest, most fundamentally bleak films you’ll see this
year.

It also confirms every tenderly nursed, dark prejudice you
may have that Australian males are, by and large, an ill-educated, repellant
shower of violent, murderous, misogynistic sociopaths.

While I personally in no way condone or support this view
of Antipodean masculinity, if you’ve ever been in a Walkabout Inn at 1:30am and
overheard an Aussie sexually harass, I mean romance,
a young lady with the words: “Don’t be such a snooty cow, do you fancy a root
or what?” you kinda start to suspect that John Bunting may not be that much of
an anomaly.

A deceptively ordinary, blokey, alpha male, Bunting,
played by the brilliant Daniel Henshall,
is a truly terrifying creation.
Charming and charismatic, he’s a brash, swaggering fantasist, convinced
of his own righteousness, who starts out torturing and murdering suspected
paedophiles but soon widens his pool of potential victims, targeting the lost,
the lonely, the forgotten, the mentally disabled and the emotionally
vulnerable, victims of convenience, of opportunity. Slowly, deliberately, he seduces the vulnerable, damaged
teenage Jamie, drawing him into a sick sub-culture of violence, murder and
intimidation but Henshall is mesmerising in the role, playing Bunting not as
the monster but as the hero he obviously was in his own head and, as such, becomes
almost the closest thing to a sympathetic character in the film, certainly its
most attractive.

As his teenage accomplice, Pittaway is staggeringly good. A damaged, victim-turned-victimiser, he wanders through the
film, sullen, numb, dead behind the eyes.
As he’s sucked slowly in by Bunting and becomes increasingly enamoured
of the seductive power he comes to hold over life and death, you watch with a
hollow, sick feeling of dread as he selects, researches and grooms prospective
victims, hoping against hope for a moral and spiritual awakening, for some form
of redemption that never comes.

Slow-burning and laid-back to the point of being
horizontal, Snowtown throbs with a
growing sense of tension, dread and impending doom that never finds release and
paints a casually brutal vision of life on the margins in suburban Australia
where siblings beat and rape each other over the controls for the TV, the
abused become abusers and where mass serial murder is an open secret that’s not
only ignored but condoned by Bunting’s neighbours.

Dark, violent and unrelentingly bleak, Justin Kurzel has fashioned a
restrained, subtle, powerful work suffused with a grim despair that evil can be
quite so banal.


David Watson

 
David Watson is a screenwriter, journalist and 'manny' who, depending on time of day and alcohol intake could be described as a likeable misanthrope or a carnaptious bampot. He loves about 96% of you but there's at least 4% he'd definitely eat in the event of a plane crash. Email: david.watson@filmjuice.com