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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/

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Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper is the editor of PM4x4, an offroad 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 or follow him on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/RobertPepperJourno/