The Boys

on October 15, 1999 by Charles Martin
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   In the dusty, desolate heartland of Australia, lives of quiet desperation are rudely disrupted when the "alpha male" of a dysfunctional and lethargic family returns and reasserts control in a slow burn that builds to an intense but predictable climax.
   Brett, the oldest son of single mom/enabler Sandra, comes home from a year in prison with a chip on his shoulder and a smothering need to re-dominate his own private universe. Whether it's his underlying knowledge that everyone's really better off without him, or his rage at his loss of potency and power (the former graphically illustrated), he is determined to exact revenge and sets in motion a downward freefall of fear, heartbreak, anger and ultimately violence that changes his life and the lives of those around him.
   The immensely stylish cinematography (headed by Tristan Milani, with editor Nick Meyers) and generally strong performances do not quite manage to lift this textbook on codependence into the realm of above average, but 12-steppers and Mike Leigh fans will revel in the dysfunctionality and tribal subconsciousness that permeates every nuance of the story. The shifting timeframe (as the story moves back and forth from the buildup to the aftermath of the film's climax) and the thick Australian accents burden the film with an extra layer of confusion. Based on a hit play and itself the winner of a number of Australian film awards, "The Boys" does spell out the psychology of the male animal in explicit detail, and clearly illustrates how inner rage can lead to outer cruelty-but at the cost of the film's being unrelenting, intense and ultimately draining. We care little about any of the characters, and loathe most of them-even when it's because we see a little of ourselves in the way Brett's evil changes them, twists them, and ultimately destroys them.    Starring David Wenham, Lynette Curran, Toni Collette and John Polson. Directed by Rowan Woods. Written by Stephen Sewell. Produced by Robert Connelly and John Maynard. A Stratosphere release. Psychological drama. Not yet rated. Running time: 86 min.
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