Gareth Rickards, Vincent Andriano, Sam Glissan, Hayley Sullivan, Jamie Kristian
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…a fun romp of a movie, embodying a type of cinematic adventure that is all but extinct these days…
Rough Stuff is director Jonathan Adams’ throwback paean to 10BA adventure films, the kind of video store staples that were ubiquitous in the mid ’80s. You remember the type – typically some American import would be chasing some McGuffin or other, and falls in with some local tough guy to engage in fish-out-of-water antics (for them) and self-mythologising (for the local hero). The notion went big budget with Crocodile Dundee, but that’s only the most visible example – there was a whole slate of these things, knockabout adventures filmed in ruggedly picturesque countryside.
Here our American interlopers are a crew of environmental activists led by the duplicitous Eric (Jamie Kristian), who need a wilderness guide so they can monkeywrench a mining operation. They team up with 4WD “rover” Buzz ( Gareth Rickards), wooing him and his offsiders, Abe (Vincent Andriano) and Scraps (Sam Glissan) with a map to fabled lost gold hoard. And so our mismatched crew of larrikin bushmen and nouveau-hippies set off.
Clearly a labour of love, Rough Stuff was financed in part by a Kickstarter campaign and marks Adams’ first foray into feature filmmaking . It’s got a lot going for it: it’s handsomely shot, boasts an engaging cast of characters (Scraps is the MVP, and his fractious relationship with American environmentalist Skye (Katie Garfield) provides a lot of laughs), and is unabashedly Australian, which is a bit of a rare quality these days. Adams and his crew have manged to stretch their clearly limited budget as far as it can go, and there are plenty of stunt sequences and the odd FX gag to spice up the narrative.
But it’s also about a half hour too long. For all that it’s ostensibly a fast-paced adventure movie, Rough Stuff in its final form is a rather flabby film. It’s not that any individual scene needs tossing, rather than every scene goes on for too long. At a tight 90 minutes, this film would be really something, but there’s simply not enough story to stretch over 120.
That’s a sin of excessive love, though – it’s tough to kill your darlings, even if doing so would make the whole stronger. Ultimately, Rough Stuff is a fun romp of a movie, embodying a type of cinematic adventure that is all but extinct these days. Adams has chops – here’s hoping he gets to exercise them again sooner rather than later.