By Mitchell Bozzetto (Sydney, Australia)
Australian cinema doesn’t have the greatest rep and because of this more and more Australian films are being overlooked or automatically dismissed before they even come out. Unfortunately, some people just don’t realise that Australia can produce quality films such as Stephen McCallum’s debut feature 1%. Set in the gritty world of an ‘outlaw motorcycle gang’ 1% focuses on the story of loyalty between two brothers Paddo (Ryan Corr) and Skink (Josh McConville).
Our story starts with Paddo as acting president of the gang whilst Knuck (Matt Noble) the real president is behind bars, soon to be released. However, Paddo’s girlfriend Katrina (Abbey Lee) who works as a bartender at the clubhouse believes he deserves to be president even when Knuck gets out and she constantly reminds him. Paddo tends to agree and all seems to be going well until Skink decides to steal a stash of heroin from rival gang The Devils. This generates retaliation from The Devils leader Sugar (Aaron Pederson), who gives Paddo an ultimatum, accept a deal that allows The Devils to launder the Copperheads dirty money or say goodbye to Skink – Paddo accepts the deal. Soon enough Knuck is back out on parole and begins to regain control of his club which is heavily endorsed by his wife Hayley (Simone Kessell).
To show he’s the boss, Knuck terminates the business arrangement with The Devils, totally undermining Paddo’s reputation. This doesn’t sit well with Sugar who gives Paddo a week to sort things out. With Knuck not set on backing down, Paddo is left with no choice but to take matters into his own hands. The story here is nothing new, we’ve all seen variations of this before but that’s not to say it’s not executed well. Noble’s script is quite powerful as is McCallum’s directing which is most notable through the terrifying tension that is reminiscent of Lee Tamahori’s Once Were Warriors.
I often find that it’s performances that make or break Australian films and fortunately the acting here is quite strong which makes for an authentic experience. Noble does an excellent job of portraying a hardened criminal especially with his beastly physique and intimidating stare. Both Lee and Kessell dominate their screen time with bold performances that show they are as much a part of the club as the men are. Finally, Corr and McConville do a great and believable job as brothers whilst individually they each hold their own.
1% is a great showcase of Australian talent but it’s not for the faint hearted. There are some heavy moments in this film with one scene in particular hard to watch, but your eyes never leave the screen, especially during the exhilarating final showdown. What’s most impressive about Noble and McConville’s film is that they portray the terrifying and damaging lives these people actually live rather than showcasing a film that is filled with over the top violence. A rough look into a frightening world that shouldn’t be missed.