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Snowtown

Year: 2011
Studio: Screen Australia
Director: Justin Kurzel
Writer: Justin Kurzel
Cast: Daniel Henshall, Lucas Pittaway

After most of the Australian drama films of the last ten years, you'd think a story about a serial killer would be the last thing you'd want to watch. A lot of our directors seem to specialise in sadness and grief that borders on pornography.

With its no name cast however, Snowtown is eerily compelling. It's in no small part thanks to Daniel Henshall as John Bunting. A hateful bogan whose crusty charm whips up the sort of righteous indignation against minorities that characterises the Australian blue collar class, Bunting plans vigilante campaigns to harass and threaten homosexuals and convicted child molesters, starting with the man who's been victimising Jamie (Pittaway) and his brothers.

It was a bit hard to figure out exactly how everyone knew everyone else, but it seemed Bunting befriended and then married Jamie's mum Elizabeth. He comes on the scene not long after Elizabeth has confronted the paedophile across the street in a scene that's as harrowing as it is distant, and sets about driving the man out of the neighbourhood.

Along with Elizabeth, Jamie starts to feel a sense of steady security when John assumes a father and husband role in their lives. When he discovers that John's not only got it in for gays and child molesters, he actually tracks down and kills them, it's hard for him to want to break away from the man who's become family.

But there's more violence than just John in Jamie's life, and when an older guy who's either a cousin or an older brother rapes him and we realise it's been going on for a long time, Jamie's left with the conundrum of keeping quiet or condemning the boy to death.

Pretty soon he's in too deep to back out with his soul intact, and the body count racks up faster like it's a Rambo sequel.

The approach first-time director Kurzel takes to narrative is so muted you might need a second viewing to discern the relationships and connections between everyone, but it gets the lifestyle of the urban poor perfectly right and to think more men like John Bunting potentially live amongst it sends a shiver down your spine.

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