Voices

ROUGH STUFF: Movie review

When I heard about an off-road action comedy feature film set in Australia I had to see it…

I’VE BEEN TO A LOT OF CINEMAS, but never have I seen the main man behind the film stand up in front of the audience before the show and have a chat.

Yet that’s exactly what director Jonathan Adams did before the start of ROUGH STUFF (yes, capitals). He explained that he wanted to make a fun movie, use 4WDs for a point in a story, and make sure the movie was worth everyone’s time. Me, well I was just there because it had 4WDs in the storyline.

I usually review cars not movies, so I’m going to take the chicken track on this review. If you understood that last sentence then you should absolutely get your 4X4 mates together and make a night of seeing this film.

You’ll have a great time, and as a comparison, I saw the Book of Mormon the night before and I reckon ROUGH STUFF is funnier, not needing to dredge for laughs by having the cast jump around with three-foot black penises strapped to their groin.

There’s also some decently shot offroad action scenes, and they’re all pretty much real-life as well. You see the 60 struggle up a slippery hill… back down, more boot and she’s up. The lines are spot on – “going to walk it” – and for those in the comp scene what happens when the driver decides to have a crack after the navi says winch it… well, you get the idea.

There’s a scene where someone is being shown how to connect a shackle to a tree trunk protector where the sounds there are perfect, and the character says tighten it… I was waiting, waiting and then yes he said what I was hoping he’d say. My absolute favourite bit is right at the end and it involves a winch – I won’t spoil it for you though, but every offroader will see it coming.

What’s important for me is whether or not the film shows anything that’s dangerous or bad practice, and generally the answer is no, unlike the idiots who make many commercials for vehicle manufacturers. I guess everyone would figure out that riding on a tray is dangerous, but of the stuff that people wouldn’t know is a bad idea – perhaps the worst is the convoy driving too close through water and across dust, but you can kind of understand that’s done for artistic license. We do the same sort of thing when shooting cars on reviews. I also liked that a fire extinguisher was visible. It’s clear the crew had some 4WD knowledge, and when asked what he drove the director said “a GQ”.

Now to the plot. Well, that’s about as believeable as the phonecall home at 4pm saying one more track and you’ll be back by 6, for sure, and you’ll cook dinner too. The plot fails on every level; there’s no overarching, big-picture moral point to be made, and the detailed plot holes and lack of continuity need long-travel desert-racing suspension of belief. But it doesn’t matter too much, because the movie never takes itself too seriously, bouncing along its rough storyline like an old Pajero across ruts.

Early on there was one section where it was going all-American hero action movie – you know the crusty old bartender guy talking about the hero in the reverentially lowered voice – “he’s the best damn operator…” the whole dick-swinging macho buildup, the bile was rising in my throat, please no this is Australia… but with a deft bit of editorial opposite lock the film was saved.

It’s also pretty clear the film was supported by ARB, and I’d like to say good on them for that but next time make the gear look used. I’m also not really clear why one of the main characters walks around randomly holding a single, brand-new Maxtrax while talking to another character. Kind of blew the scene for me. Also a bit of a shock to see a closeup of Pat Callinan’s face in full high-def with no prior warning.

This wasn’t a big budget film, and it shows. It’s fair to forgive some errors like vehicles not appearing damaged when they have been, and the not-quite-credible changes of scenery, but smaller errors could have been taken care of. The Ranger chase is totally illogical, and when changing a tyre they needed a delay so they used an excuse of a cross-threaded nut. More beliveable would be to lose a nut in the dirt, and there would be some comedy chances too. And was it really necessary to use RC cars and speed up some scenes, or use a 4X2 ute to chase a 4X4?

Overall though, I very much enjoyed the movie and I think anyone who regularly drives around on low-pressure tyres will too, and non offroaders will enjoy it but maybe not quite as much.Get down to your local cinema and support this fun bit of Aussie moviemaking, because the crew want to make a sequel and I want to see it.

http://www.roughstuffmovie.com/

https://www.facebook.com/RoughStuffMovie/

Have you seen the movie?Let us know what you thought by leaving a comment below

  • Juliette Remfrey

    On the flip-side, I didn’t enjoy it. I don’t mind low budget movies, but struggle when I feel that they’re trying to be something that they’re not. I couldn’t get past the terrible acting bar two (Gareth Rickards and Ernie Dingo). The director wanted it to be the next “The Castle”. It’s definitely not.

    It lost me right at the start – a vehicle that rolls down a hill, lands on its roof and is completely undamaged, sped up sequences, the obvious use of remote control cars, complete lack of continuity of scenery, perfect make-up in the bush, unnecessary accents and a rubbish story line. If you want to see it for your favourite car and can overlook all of that, go for your life. Good on them for trying.

    • Jonathan Adams

      Film makers must embrace early on the mantra “you can’t win ’em all”. Some of my favourite movies are reviled by a minority of people who hate them for reasons that boggle my mind.

      That said, I’d be interested to know an example of a movie in this genre which meets your clearly exacting standards?

      • Juliette Remfrey

        That’s correct. It’s your baby, but not everyone is going to enjoy it. Why is the genre of the movie important? I can dislike a movie (or really anything) without having to directly compare it to something else.

        • Jonathan Adams

          Its only important because its possible you simply don’t like this type of movie, which is fine. As a fan of things like Indiana Jones, Die Hard, The Goonies, Star Wars, many old Westerns and jungle adventures, I think I would love this movie for its spirit and its sense of fun and its attention to character.

          If you’re comparing it to, say, The Godfather then I can see why you wouldn’t enjoy it ;). Obviously I don’t know you and I can’t make any presumptions, hence I’m just asking the question.

          • Juliette Remfrey

            If you’re lumping it in the basket of ‘adventure movie’ or ‘action movie’, then yes, I do very much enjoy movies in those genres.

            I’m a passionate car enthusiast, and appreciate Australian movies. But it doesn’t mean I must automatically love this movie because it ticks any or all of those boxes.

          • Jonathan Adams

            Its sounds like you’re very much the type of person I made the movie for, so all the more disappointing you didn’t like it. If everyone felt the same as you, I’d be very unhappy indeed – fortunately, most people seem to be liking it a great deal.

          • Juliette Remfrey

            Like I said initially, good on you for making it. It’s not the end of the world if someone didn’t enjoy it. If you can’t accept criticism you’re in entirely the wrong industry. You even said yourself that you can’t please everybody. The same is true with modified cars – what’s to one person’s taste isn’t necessarily to everybody’s. Maybe focus your energy on the people that liked it rather than trying to convert those that don’t.

          • Jonathan Adams

            I’m not trying to convert you, actually the only reason I’m interested is because yours is the first piece of genuinely negative feedback we’ve had, so I’m genuinely interested in your reasoning.

            As I said originally, people dislike things I love for all sorts of reasons. There are people out there who don’t like Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones, The Dark Knight…and I can’t “convert” those people either. People just react to movies how they will and its not a matter of dissecting it.

          • Juliette Remfrey

            I cannot overlook all of the things I mentioned in my first comment, that is my reason.

  • Jonathan Adams

    Robert, thanks so much for a great review. At the end of the day if the movie is fun and enjoyable yet flawed, thats the most a film maker can hope for. We did strive for accuracy wherever possible, but you are correct in that creative license was used in some instances. Truly technical and “best practice” driving doesn’t always look exciting on screen, especially not to an uninitiated audience (and to be clear, the film is as much aimed at the 4WD set as it for a broader audience).

    If you’ll indulge me in a defence…I will say that in my opinion the film is more sophisticated in its plot and characters than it strictly needed to be…in terms of “overarching theme” I’ve tried to use 4WDing as a metaphor for the way we seek out challenges in life and use those challenges to derive meaning, and also how we can take that instinct to a dangerous extreme. This feeds into the political subtext of the film, wherein Buzz himself in the middle of an idelolgical battle between an extreme left-wing terrorist and an extreme right-wing businessman and concluding that neither are right and the truth lies somewhere in the grey area. If you happen to catch the movie a second time, perhaps some of these themes will become more apparent…

    I’m not going to claim the plotting is perfect and doesn’t stretch credibility at certain points, but “fails on every level” seems an unfair exaggeration. Perhaps this is how archaeologists feel about Indiana Jones?

    • Hi Jonathan

      First off congrats on the movie and thank you for making it. As I said, I very much enjoyed it. We welcome all comments here on PM whether they agree with us or not.

      Re your specific points:

      – the main thing for me with 4WD action content is not to show dangerous practices. The excuse of artistic license never, ever excuses showing dangerous ways to do things. Your film avoided this trap, and I’d suggest that vehicle manufacturers looking to create commercials should hire you and your crew instead of relying on agenices that create identikit generic rubbish where a shiny new vehicle is driven too fast through salt water by improbably well-groomed tradies. I am well aware of how difficult it can be to make 4WD action look exciting for both stills and film and I reckon you guys did a great job.

      As for the plot:

      *** SPOILER ALERT **

      Don’t read further if you don’t want to know what happens!

      Big-picture plot; the ideological battle concept of terrorism vs right-wing business doesn’t work because the latter turns out to be part of the former. I appreciate that was a plot twist and a potentially good one, but once that was revealed the concept of the end not justifying the means was lost.

      In addition, the impact of the two extremes was not really shown. There is a very real environmental cost to large-scale mining which was not even partially explored, leaving it to the viewer to figure out that big mining = bad with no evidence. Similarly, the impact of the terrorists wasn’t explored save for a line or two about lots of people potentially dying or stuff being blown up. I think there is a definite point to be made about the two extremes, but for me the film didn’t flesh out the potential of its plot at that level. You could have had local characters talk about the jobs and wealth mining brings, how reliant we are on its product, and the efforts made by the miners for conservation. Then had one of the greenies talk about the destruction of the habitat, threatened species etc…leaving the viewer clear that there’s no good answer. Exactly this topic has been thrashed out many a time at campfires. We’re seeing a version of it right now with the Heyfield mill and Hazelwood issues in Victoria, not to mention the Great Forest National Park debate, and overseas where Trump has restarted work on that pipeline. As an observer, it is apparent to me how little each side knows about the other and hence emotions run high. I also saw no indication the businessman was extreme right wing, just a plain old capitalist.

      Moving down a level; the plot was going well for me until the ranger chase. First off I find the idea of a bounty hunter a bit incredible, then that 3 tough guys who are armed want to run away. And why abandon two vehicles? Then fitting all those people into a singlecab tray? Having the lead character push over a tree with his back? If you want to stop a vehicle on a track a more credible way to do it would be to roll a rock or two into the middle of the track, anything 300mm high or so that you can’t drive around would do it, or better yet have those characters find another difficult hill climb where they had to winch, leaving Buzz and Abe plenty of time to catch up on foot. Such a hill climb would be readily apparent from the close contour lines on the map and you could have had Eric and mate all confused over locking diffs etc. As it was, suddenly the two newbies, Eric and his mate, learn how to drive and navigate. And we were told several times it’d be a 36-hour return trip to the point where the ranger finds them, yet that didn’t seem to play out. For example, how did the recovery crew have time to get to the abandoned vehicles, repair the tyres, and tow them out? Why did they even bother? If you find a car in the bush that’s not yours and there’s nobody around the responsible thing to do is to search for the owners, not steal their transport. The vehicles were already immobilised thanks to the multiple sidewall slashes.

      The bit at the end; throwing dynamite into the path of a pursuer? Works but these rovers aren’t cold blooded killers. Didn’t seem right. Why not just have Scraps drive some terrain the others couldn’t follow then double back? He has a modded Disco which kills those two stock utes offroad.

      That’s my justification for the comment, there is more but I don’t recall all the details after a big weekend. Basically I decided to forget about the bigger plot and the smaller ones, settled back to enjoy the film and then I loved it. I will definitely buy the DVD when it comes out and it’ll go next to my Russell Coight collection for when the club wants to run a movie night.

      Incidentally I think the Fast and Furious movies are a solar system beyond planet stupid in their plotline and vehicle depictions but they have no excuse – lots of money, eight attempts so far or is it nine, I forget. But they are successful nevertheless, because many people just don’t care. However, I know many people don’t enjoy those movies because of that reason, so when writing the review I had to cover all potential viewpoints albeit with a slant towards the 4WD enthusiast.

      Incidentally I once infiltrated what looked like a mining site by accident in the rough location you shot in. I was following an unmarked track that was going where I wanted to go, then it got fainter..I kept going a while and ended up in some sort of big industrial compound on a service road, eventually looking at the other side of rather imposingly locked gates! Amazingly security weren’t awake so I just turned around and went out the way I came in.

      • Jonathan Adams

        STILL SPOILERS!

        Robert, thanks so much for such a thoughtful reply. I don’t want to take up your time but if you’ll indulge me a little further…

        “There is a very real environmental cost to large-scale mining which was not even partially explored, leaving it to the viewer to figure out that big mining = bad with no evidence”

        Showing the environmental impact of mining was never my intention. The ‘ol “evil businessman hurting the environment trope” is something I wanted to set up as a red herring. Agreed there is a long history of mining being the cause of environmental catastrophe’s, however having worked with mining companies and educational institutions my feeling is that sustainable mining has become embraced. The point I wanted to make was that while the environmentalist were holding to the conventional narrative that mining = destruction, before gathering any evidence, Madsen was already busy pursuing another agenda, which they had no idea about. The point being that the conservation, eco-warrior community is so focused on the narrative they themselves have settled on, that they are potentially missing the real problems.

        “I also saw no indication the businessman was extreme right wing, just a plain old capitalist.”

        I suppose this is entirely subjective, but to me the most insidious corporatist behaviour is big businesses seeing themselves above the law and entitled to do what they want. Madsen’s deviousness isn’t that he puts profits over the environment, its that he thinks she should be able to do whatever he wants, because he knows best. This is seen both in show he treats his daughter and how he runs his business. Hence the revelation that, while his new mine is “completely sustainable”, he intends to begin work on an export terminal before securing the proper approval. The point being that the environmentalists were completely playing into his hand.

        I try to inject a bit of nuance into my characters – I didn’t want Madsen to be a snarling, moustache-twirling villain. He is charming and charismatic, as many billionaire’s tend to be. So to is Eric a magnetic personality. Both of them have shades of admirable qualities, and I like that.

        Th bigger point I wanted to make was that people often believe things for emotional reasons. Capitalism and environmentalism are not inherently bad things, but taking to their extremes they become like religions with their own unwavering dogma and tenets, even in the face of contradictory evidence. I’m suspicious of any pursuit taken for purely emotional reasons, because emotion is anathema to rationality.

        “You could have had local characters talk about the jobs and wealth mining brings, how reliant we are on its product, and the efforts made by the miners for conservation. Then had one of the greenies talk about the destruction of the habitat, threatened species etc…leaving the viewer clear that there’s no good answer.”

        I think the point is made more subtly. The point of the film is the fun and the swashbuckling and the derring-do, and if the commentary comes through its in the subtext. I think it is there, but its perhaps something you’ll only appreciate on repeat viewings. The fact that the movie is fun enough to warrant repeat viewings is more important than the audience getting everything in that first viewing. Also its already a long movie at 119 minutes, and what other political

        As for your other comments, I actually love them all – you sure were paying attention! I could go through one-by-one and explain what I was thinking, but at the end of the day if you don’t find them credible then it just is what it is. I will say these are garden-variety plot inconsistencies, no worse than 90% of other films in this genre, and plotting is all about fining a compromise between pace and clarity. Since you enjoyed the film, I think I found the right compromise!

        “Having the lead character push over a tree with his back? If you want to stop a vehicle on a track a more credible way to do it would be to roll a rock or two into the middle of the track, anything 300mm high or so that you can’t drive around would do it”

        Just wanted to respond to this one specifically because what you describe is literally what was in the script and what was intended to be shot. We had a massive hollow plaster boulder made, which supposed to be rolled down the hill and everything, but the damn thing collapsed the day of the shoot and the tree thing was a last-second replacement. I spent a lot of time being really frustrated by it, but now I kind of like it – the tone is the movie is such that that kind of silliness is permissible, no?

Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper is a freelance journalist, driver trainer and photographer interested in anything with wings, sails or wheels. He is the author of four books on offroading, and owns a modified Ford Ranger PX which he uses for offroad touring. His other car is a Toyota 86 which exists purely to drive in circles on racetracks. Visit his website: www.l2sfbc.com