Rate M, 96 minutes
Who doesn’t love a bad genre thriller where a desert man has to chase a wild dog that wants to tear his heart out? Especially when that man is played by the American beauty-boy Jack Efron, who sits on a great movable body of gold. Delicious.
The movie was shot in the vicinity of Le Creek in north-south Australia, but the signs in Arabic indicate that we are somewhere in ‘Stan’ after an incident. Efron, as an unnamed man, is heading east, stuck in some chariot. Anthony Hayes, whose name is not known, comes to take him to a mining camp. A few days later, Ephron finds a lump of gold in the desert – just like that. It’s too big to move. One has to stay and watch, the other goes for the digger.
It is a classic set-up in a script co-written by Hayes and his partner Polly Smith. I kept thinking Wealth in the Sierra Madre And “we don’t need any smelly badges”.
Hayes gives us no backstory, no details that can be considered exposure. It is hell and they have found their way to heaven, if they can overcome the scorpion, the dog, the thirst and their own greedy instincts. Susie Porter plays a third character: it’s better to say less about her role. Porter is as nice as ever.
Why is it not set in Australia? Hayes, acting and directing, adopts a fairly simple southern drum that doesn’t help his character’s credibility. The picture would have been stronger if he had stuck to his own language, although it was basically a picture of Efron. He occupies the screen alone, beneath the dirt of the desert, for most of the length. It’s easy to see the attraction – it’s an actor’s dream. With a little self-awareness he acts like a work man.
One problem may be that this Yanke is more unprepared than a box of stones in this environment, wastes water and does things that he was not specifically told to do – but that’s how it works. “If you go there you will die”, so the character goes down there. This is also part of the joy of the ritual: we can explore human stupidity from a safe distance and determine what we do.