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  Odd Angry Shot, The Who Cares Who Wins
Year: 1979
Director: Tom Jeffrey
Stars: Graham Kennedy, John Hargreaves, John Jarratt, Bryan Brown, Graeme Blundell, Richard Moir, Ian Gilmour, Graham Rouse, John Allen, Tony Barry, Brandon Burke, John Fitzgerald, Mike Harris, Johnny Garfield, Ray Meagher, Frankie J. Holden, Max Cullen
Genre: Comedy, Drama, WarBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 3 votes)
Review: Today Bill (John Jarratt) is celebrating his birthday, and when he gets to blow the candles out on his cake and make a wish, there's one thing he knows he wants before he is sent out with the Army to Vietnam. His girlfriend is only too happy to grant it, in the bushes outside, but after securing a promise from her that she will write to him and wait for him, Bill wonders if she really will make good on that. It is 1969, and he has joined the Australian S.A.S., ready for combat and all the excitement that entails - but what he's not ready for are the long stretches of inactivity...

The Odd Angry Shot was Australia's first contribution to the Vietnam War movie genre, and for a while it was their only contribution as at the time their presence there had been brushed under the carpet seeing as how disastrous the outcome was for their side. Therefore this film, which grouped together a collection of high profile stars, in their native land at least, courted controversy by reminding its countrymen that they had indeed fought in that conflict, with casualties for that matter. Nevertheless, as a later part of the Australian New Wave of the seventies, it was a big hit there.

As Oz's King of Television, late night comedy host Graham Kennedy might have seemed an unusual choice to headline in such a movie, and as he was in his mid-forties at the time he was probably a bit too old for the role in any case, but he was trying to break into the movies at the time and as one of the most famous people in Australia he would have been a significant draw. Yet he was really part of an ensemble, as the main characters presented a Four Musketeers of soldiers, joking, fighting, drinking endless cans of Fosters, and pretty much living up to (or living down to) every national stereotype they could.

But there was a depth here as befitting the translation of writer William L. Nagle's real life experiences of the situation, if not always quite as smoothly related here as director Tom Jeffrey might have hoped: the gear changes are very abrupt throughout. One minute they're larking about, downing their lagers, playfully insulting each other and the like, the next they will either be opening up about their hopes and fears, or worse getting seriously injured or even killed. You could argue that this was the way that the war was for many of its participants - the title indicates that too - but the cast don't quite handle one aspect quite as well as the other in consecutive scenes.

The template here would have appeared to be Robert Altman's MASH, which adopted similar mixtures of tone, and there are some highly amusing bits here, such as when the boys get together to present their padre with a home made "wanking device" and he is genuinely touched by their gesture; it's obvious the cast relished their chance to be both earthy and funny. But as the story draws on, episodic as it was, all these awkward parts begin to cohere, and after a while you are respecting not only the soldiers' bravura in the face of impending doom, but also how vulnerable they really were. That vulnerability lasts to the end of the film where the survivors are discharged after their tour of duty and find that nobody really cares about what they did over there, so even if the style could have been slicker, there's no denying you get the point they were making. Music by Michael Carlos.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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