In my ongoing tribute to the land of MAD MAX and CHOPPER I have come across another good giant crocodile movie that pre-dates ROGUE by a good 20 years. But this one actually has John Jarrat – the widower Russell in ROGUE, the fuckin maniac in WOLF CREEK – as the park ranger hero.
This one reminds me of RAZORBACK a little, because it reminds me of JAWS a little. The director, Arch Nicholson, was second unit director on RAZORBACK, but his movie is in a more realistic vein, less stylized and exaggerated. The crocodile never runs through the side of a house and steals a baby like the razorback did. The photography is pretty naturalistic, it’s by Andrew Lesnie whose name seems familiar because he did the LORD OF THE RINGS movies, the BABE movies, and I AM LEGEND.
There’s a scene that has to be a deliberate homage to JAWS where everybody’s playing on the beach and a woman spots the croc and tries to warn the kids to get out of the water, but one kid gets eaten in front of everybody. But it’s an Australian twist because half of the kids on the beach are aborigines. That’s what makes this story unique is the conflict between the “white fellas” who just want to kill the crocodile, and the aborigines who won’t let them.
Jarratt plays Steve, a conservationist who believes in the protection policy put in place to appease the tribal leaders who consider crocodiles sacred. He points out that crocodiles have lived in these parts for millions of years, but Australians made them endangered in 20. But if you ever get a chance try convincing white people to protect crocodiles when one of them just ate a kid whole in front of 30 or 40 witnesses. It’s not easy.
So Steve’s plan is to kill the one giant croc before all the yahoos come in and kill all the other ones. Pretty good plan, but he has trouble finding the one and before you know it poachers are going ape. I’ve never seen so many crocodile head shots in a movie before. Or any for that matter.
What makes the movie cool is the twist that happens when Steve tries to enlist the help of the tribal leader Oondabund, whose family has had a relationship with this croc for generations. It seems the only way to find the croc is to get eaten by it, but this guy knows how to find it. Steve needs his help because a poacher just got his arm bit off and the hoopla is sure to get the protection policy lifted.
Oondabund won’t kill the croc so they hatch a plan to capture it and bring it to the breeding grounds away from civilization, then kill a different croc and pretend that was the right one. So the climactic action sequence is not a crocodile hunt, but a truck chase with the giant crocodile strapped to the back and the one-armed hunter and his friends trying to catch up to kill it. Imagine JAWS but instead of killing the shark Richard Dreyfus puts it on the back of a truck and drives off before Quint can kill it.
This is an enjoyable movie and another feather in the cap of Australian cinema. Unfortunately it was apparently never seen in Australia (due to the distributor going under before its release) and in the US it’s only on VHS.
SPECIAL BONUS REVIEW: TRIPWIRE
Here’s another obscure VHS-only release that I watched this weekend. It has no connection to DARK AGE but I don’t have much to say about it and I’m a critic who plays by his own rules, so what the hell. I’m sticking it on the end of the other review. And you can’t stop me.
TRIPWIRE caught my eye with its painted cover of a dude being dragged behind a truck. Strangely enough there’s that other movie THE HIT LIST which caught my attention with its cover of a guy being dragged on the front of a car about to drive over tire spikes, and HIT LIST director William Lustig is credited with the story for TRIPWIRE.
It’s not much of a story though. Something about a suspended cop (some dude named Terence Knox) who visits his ex-wife just before his son gets kidnapped by a terrorist (David Warner). The son is played by Andras Jones of NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4 fame – the only guy besides Jason to have a martial arts duel with Freddy. The cop/dad isn’t on the force anymore so he makes a fake ID and goes to transfer a prisoner so he can torture information out of him. One of the few succesful attempts at badassery in the movie is when the prisoner boasts that he can’t do anything to make him talk without getting in trouble and then he reveals that he isn’t really an FBI agent and has just kidnapped him.
Yaphet Kotto plays an FBI captain or somesuch, which is kind of cool because you can just pretend you’re watching HOMICIDE.
The box description plays up the stunt team on the movie, which was smart because it got me to rent it. Sure enough there are a bunch of motorcycle chases and shit. All pretty cool but not spectacular when you’ve watched the best. The standout was definitely a snowmobile chase, I liked that one. The get lots of air, one of them goes over a cliff, then they fight in the snow.
The problem is this Knox guy, while convincingly tough, doesn’t have alot of charisma. He’s adequate but not enough to make you excited about this generic story.
The one thing that kept me watching was waiting to see if Viggo Mortensen would ever talk. He plays one of David Warner’s two thugs, and mostly stands around looking menacing. Toward the end he finally talks when he threatens to strangle Andras Jones, and that’s when you learn he’s supposed to be German. (That explains why the credits call him “Hans”.) Then he gets acid thrown in his face and he screams. It’s funny, because you could never imagine a guy playing a thug in a low-rent action movie like this would go on to a performance as jawdroppingly spectacular as the one he did in EASTERN PROMISES last year. But at the same time I imagine it probaly helped to have played roles like this, because at the beginning of the EASTERN PROMISES he’s the same type of character – hired thug who stands around trying to scare people without saying or doing anything.
Anyway, interesting cast with some good stunts but if you’re searching for gold mines like I am you can move along.