Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Stephen McCallum
Stars: Ryan Corr, Matt Nable, Abbey Lee, Josh McConville, Simone Kessell. Sam Parsonson, Eddie Baroo, Aaron Fa’aoso, Daniel Pantovic.
Set amongst the world of lawless outlaw bikie gangs in Perth, this tale of brotherly love, betrayal, toxic masculinity, power struggles and violence is a bit like an Antipodean version of Sons Of Anarchy. The title itself is a reference to the fact that one percent of motorbike riders belong to an outlaw gang.
The Copperheads motorcycle gang is led by Knuck (Matt Nable, who also penned the script) who rules with an iron fist. But Knuck is currently serving time in prison, and has handed over the reins to his second in charge Paddo (Ryan Corr), who uses his brains rather than brawn and has his own vision for the direction the gang should take. He has recruited new members and found alternative methods of raising cash through a deal with a rival gang. When Knuck is released from jail the tension between the two men is palpable and inevitably leads to a violent clash. Paddo’s ambitious girlfriend Katrina (Abbey Lee, from Ruben Guthrie, etc) urges him to get rid of Knuck. But the wild card in this scenario is Paddo’s mentally disabled younger brother Skink (Josh McConville, recently seen in The Merger, etc), who has a habit of causing trouble, especially when he steals a cache of drugs from a rival gang.
While in prison Knuck developed a taste for brutally sodomising young men, and once outside he turns his attentions to the weedy looking and nervous newest recruit who is vulnerable and an ill fit for the overly masculine world of the bikie gangs.
This confronting film marks the feature debut for director Stephen McCallum, an AFTRS graduate who hails from a background in commercials and as a second unit director for television. His tight direction ramps up the testosterone and adrenaline, and he brings a sweaty intensity to the material. There is a sense of impending doom hanging over the material that gives the film the feel of a Shakespearean tragedy. He captures this grim world and brings a gritty authenticity to the violent setting, and the climactic shootout is well-staged.
Louise Brady’s production design brings a certain grungy aesthetic to the gang’s bikie bar hangout, while some bleak cinematography Shelley Farthing-Dawe (Pawno, etc) lends the material an oppressive and ugly visual style.
Nable, a former rugby player who has starred in films like The Final Winter and The Killer Elite, etc, has a strong physical presence as Knuck and he has beefed up to make his character more formidable and terrifying. He brings some nuances to the character though so he is not just a simple thug. Corr brings a hint of sincerity and sensitivity to his role as Paddo, a much darker and more complex character than his recent role in Ladies In Black. Lee is good as the ruthless and manipulative Katrina, a Lady Macbeth type with a lust for power. Cast against type, Aaron Pedersen (Mystery Road, etc) brings a hint of menace to his role as Sugar, the vicious leader of a rival gang who urges Paddo to get rid of Knuck. McConville delivers a strong performance as the damaged Skink.
1% is a gritty drama that offers up a fairly formulaic view of the lawlessness of bikie gangs and is pretty much in the same vein as the 1970s classic Stone, which was set against the backdrop of a bikie gang, and the 2012 television miniseries Bikie Wars: Brothers In Arms, which also featured Nable. As an Australian crime drama, 1% has its moments, but ultimately is not on the same level as Underbelly or other great local films such as Animal Kingdom, the brutal The Boys, or the grim serial killer drama Snowtown.