Small town Australia can be a strange place. The long stretches of distance and landscape breeds a distinct kind of person who anyone that grew up in this environment can recognize instantly. A kind of small town country mentality; as stereotypically Australian as you can get where people drink VB, wear flannelette, drive utes, smoke Winnie Blues, scream along to AFL games and vote National. It’s the kind of Australia usually reserved for commercial TV and the Ozploitation genre of the 1970-80s but it makes it back to the big screen in the Marc Gracie/Tim Ferguson co-directed Spin Out.
On the eve of a Bachelors and Spinsters ball that most sacred of Australian traditions – a Ute muster – is underway. Billy (Xavier Samuel) and Lucy (Morgan Griffin) are friends who grew up together and their constant competitiveness in the burnout competition might hide something deeper. This is one of the many plots that are weaved together over the course of the night. Their best friend Sparrow (Travis Jeffery) is trying to figure out a way to confess his love to the spiked tonged goth girl Mary (Melissa Bergland). Three of their mates have decided to join get off the doll and join the army. Champion beer drinker Podge (Dorje Swallow) is out to break the record number of cans be drank the previous year and two city slickers have come along to the B&S ball with hopes of picking up some country folk.
Tim Ferguson has said that this project was in development for years, so it’s a credit to him and the team that they’ve stuck to their guns all this time. What’s resulted is a very basic piece of film making which is saved by the passion that has clearly gone into it. The pacing never sags, the actors all look like they’re having a good time and there’s a big heart under the many clichés.
Everyone is the large cast holds their weight but Xavier Samuel stands out as the person of interest. Samuel had a dream run as an actor in the last few years, going from strength to strength in the Hollywood system with big budget affairs like Eclipse in the Twilight films to gritty history in Fury. Yet he still finds time to come back to his native Australia to work on local features like Drift in 2013 and now Spin Out. It’s a testament to him that after breaking into the largest film market in the world he still comes back to support the Australian industry which isn’t in the best place at the moment.
Although it does undoubtedly show some of the worst aspects of Australian society with the binge drinking and the lose morals, it manages the fine line of being both a pisstake and occasionally spot on imitation of rural Australia (I should know, it was shot around the town where I grew up).
While you could definitely find a long list of very large flaws – the many clichés, predictable story, stock type characters and largely hit-and-miss humour – this is doing the film a disservice. It harkens back to the classic carefree larrikinism in Australian films like Barry McKenzie or Red Dog, aiming for low brow entertainment and for the most part hitting the target.
Snooty critics will probably tear this film to shreds, for good reason, but speaking plainly this is the kind of film that isn’t made for the critical community. While not being a great film by any stretch of the imagination there isn’t a cynical bone in the film’s body and populist entertainment, especially home grown, can be a lot of fun in the right circumstances. Get a few mates and some beers together and Spin Out could be a lot of fun.
Spin Out is in Australian cinemas from September 15th through Sony Pictures.