Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Jon Hewitt

Stars: Belind McClory, John Brumpton, Frank Magree, Peter Docker, Anthea Davis, Neil Pigot, Daniel Richardson, James Young, Robert Morgan, Daniel Wyllie, Chris Hatzis, Ray Mooney.

A deliberately discordant and jarring opening credit sequence suggests that we are back in Seven territory. And even though there is a vicious serial killer running around in the background of this nasty, ultra low budget crime thriller shot in Melbourne, writer/director Jon Hewitt has a completely different agenda in mind. Redball is a head on, confronting and brutally realistic look at the pressures facing the police who deal with death and street crime every day, and the toll it inevitably takes.

Hewitt used to work in a pub near the Russell Street police complex, and over the years he picked up many stories about real life investigations and the off duty antics of the cops. Some of those tales have been woven into the plot of this hard hitting and often unsavoury examination of life on the streets and corruption, whether it be free sex from hookers or taking a kilo off drug dealers for private use. Hewitt is no stranger to controversy, as his first feature Bloodlust is still banned in Britain, and he doesn’t pull his punches here. Hewitt is a fan of maverick American director Abel Ferrara, and tries to emulate his uncompromising style with Redball.

The central plot device centres around the hunt for Mr Creep, a psychopath who preys on young children. It is a case that obsesses detective J J Wilson (Belinda McClory, recently seen in the big budget sci-fi thriller The Matrix) and her cynical and world weary partner (John Brumpton, from Life, etc). But far from becoming another police procedural, Redball is a morally ambiguous film that lurches through its unflinching examination of this particularly masculine world, and the camaraderie that exists between street cops, even when off duty. The cops here seem to have little social life beyond the force, as they always hang around in tight knit little groups, drinking and discussing their activities.

Hewitt has the street wise vernacular down pat. He takes a scatter-gun approach to his material, and the film unfolds in a series of energetic short, sharp takes that propel the narrative forward. Hewitt forces the audience to do much of the detective work in piecing together the various strands. A blackly comic running joke about a dead body floating down the Yarra River lightens the unrelentingly bleak tone.

However, the overall lack of technical skill and polish behind this self funded and quickly shot film becomes evident through the often crude, jump cut editing, which occasionally jars. Hewitt also lacked the luxury of being able to do numerous retakes of scenes, which is occasionally reflected in the performances. Despite the limitations of working within a shoe string budget, Hewitt has made good use of locations within Melbourne. The hand held camera work lends an urgency to proceedings, and contributes to the grungy look that perfectly suits the tone of the film. The soundtrack, featuring a number of cutting edge local independent bands, is often used inappropriately within the context of the film.

Ultimately, Redball lacks the polish and slick qualities of such films as Serpico, Prince Of The City, Internal Affairs, and even Joseph Wambaugh’s black comedy The Choirboys, which explored the sometimes shocking off duty antics of LA cops. It even lacks the gritty intensity and realism of local tv productions such as Blue Murder and Wildside.



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