The Copperheads are an Australian biker gang who proudly proclaim themselves to be part of the 1%, that is the percentage of bikers in the country who break the law and cause trouble for their own benefit. However, they have hit some trouble recently as their leader, Knuck (Matt Nable) has been in prison, which sees them vulnerable to threats from another gang who wish to muscle in on their patch. To that end, the rivals have broken into the house of the stand-in leader Mark (Ryan Corr) and dragged him, his girlfriend Katrina (Abbey Lee) and his simpleton brother Adam (Josh McConville) from the place and kidnapped them, all to make them a deal they cannot refuse.
When you think of biker movies, you tend to go to the late sixties and early seventies, the genre's heyday, when the Western was fading in popularity and other styles were moving in to replace its mix of morality tales and action. Bikers were part of that, but they never really caught on as much as, say, the more generalised action flicks that progressed into the eighties, or the science fiction space operas that took the trappings of the Old West and applied them to a futuristic approach, be that on other worlds or in a post-apocalyptic setting. Part of this latter had been George Miller's Mad Max series, and you would expect a biker effort from Australia to stick with that template.
But you would be wrong, as director Stephen McCallum was more keen to evoke memories of the then-recent television series Sons of Anarchy instead. That had adopted a soap opera with violence approach to the gangs concerned, which was where we were with Outlaws, and that explained why, for a biker movie, there was a disappointing lack of any of the characters on actual motorbikes. Whether the production couldn't get their cast insured to ride them, or they simply did not have the money for elaborate stunt work, the absence of any kind of motorcycle spectacle was hard to ignore, especially when most of the rest of it was a bunch of uncouth Australians being very aggressive.
And not much more than that. A sense of humour would not have gone amiss, or at least a sense of the romance of the open road, it didn't need to be Easy Rider, it could have gone the route of The Wild Angels, yet most of this seemed to take place within the confines of a warehouse which must have been cheap to hire, but wasn't exactly the most engaging setting to watch the characters circle one another in. It was really a battle between Mark and Knuck to admit they may respect each other, but they didn't particularly like each other, and they both wanted to run the club that makes its money running and selling drugs, though for their members, actually taking them is a no-no on the orders of their leader. That is imperative now he is out on parole and trying to gather his forces back to their former glory.
Not that you saw much in the way of glory, and that enclosed, almost claustrophobic mood worked against what even a cult favourite Aussie biker effort like Stone from the nineteen-seventies embraced, though that was adamant that stunts were an essential element of the genre. Watching this, you had to admit they had been onto something back then as you were largely left with a cycle of swearing, violence and sex, though in the case of the latter not so much that you would see any nudity, this being the twenty-first century and the cast being a lot more savvy about what they were prepared to show. How different from the golden days of Ozploitation, and that was another issue, there was always a feeling of glee in those, even a transgressive thrill of getting away with something daring, while here it was glum all the way. The cast were convincingly rough and tough, give them that, but you could perceive no reason as to why their characters pursued this life of theirs since they took so little pleasure in it. Music by Chris Cobilis.
[No extras on the Altitude DVD, but picture and sound are fine.]