Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Leon Ford
Stars: Ryan Kwanten, Patrick Brammell, Toby Schmitz, Maeve Dermody.
Following closely on the footsteps of the superb comic book-like Kick-Ass comes another story of a young man and social misfit who aspires to be a superhero. But Griff The Invisible is not exactly a pleasant and similarly enjoyable experience. This quirky Australian film delves into more darker and psychologically disturbing territory, and the central protagonist comes across more as a cross between Kick-Ass’s naïve wannabe superhero and Nina, the troubled ballet dancer at the centre of the recent Black Swan.
By day Griff (Ryan Kwanten) is an insecure, introverted clerical worker who is bullied by his colleague (Toby Schmitz, from Three Blind Mice, the short lived tv series The Cooks, etc). By night though he becomes a costumed crusader thwarting crime and criminals in his run down neighbourhood at the behest of the Police Commissioner. Or is he?
Despite some obvious parallels to Batman and the like, Griff turns out to be a man suffering from delusions in which he creates an alternate world for himself in which he plays the role of a superhero. His costume has large black boots, a large yellow G, and a helmet that hides his identity. Griff’s brother Tim (Patrick Brammell, from Home And Away, Canal Road, etc) tries to make him see reason and re-enter the “normal” world.
But it is only when Griff forms a connection with Tim’s girl friend Melody (Maeve Dermody), who is equally as ditzy and troubled, that his perspective changes. Melody is an eccentric science nut with an idiosyncratic personality of her own, and a healthy imagination. The relationship between this offbeat couple is tinged with a note of sadness and regret.
Griff The Invisible is the first feature film from Sydney-based former actor turned writer/director Leon Ford, who has made a number of successful short films. But he fumbles badly with this quirky film. The script is incoherent at times and unfocused, especially towards the end. The first half-hour or so is a bit of a mess as Ford hurries about trying to introduce a number of quirky characters. The film deals with themes of alienation, loneliness, identity, and mental health. The humour here is black, which means that it also struggles to connect with a broader audience looking for something a bit more lightweight.
The film has been nicely shot, and cinematographer Simon Chapman (The Loved Ones, etc) captures the seedy back alleys and lane ways of Sydney. He imbues them with a palpable sense of menace.
The real strength of the film though is the two central performances. Kwanten, who was so good in the recent Red Hill, plays the deeply flawed and troubled protagonist here and he is very good. In particular he seems to be deliberately breaking away from the sexy, confident persona he has developed on the tv series True Blood to play a more painfully vulnerable, troubled and insecure character. Dermody, from Beautiful Kate, etc, is also very good as the troubled Melody, and brings intelligence and a touch of humour to her performance.
Griff The Invisible is yet another example of a quirky local production that is let down by the uneven script. It will struggle to find a broad audience, particularly when audiences begin comparing it unfavourably with the likes of Kick-Ass, and its ilk.