Judge Daryl Loomis rocked the boat in his town with his rant about rising pork prices.
I've seen you at those dances; you got what was coming to you.
This was not the Shame that I was expecting to see. By all rights, I was to receive Ingmar Bergman's 1968 film, so it was a little surprising to see a desolate outback landscape instead of the desolate tundra landscape I anticipated. Unless Max Von Sydow and Liv Ullman had some incredible Australian accents, then something was definitely wrong. There was no way for me to know it beforehand, but I was watching the 1988 movie called Shame from the land down under; it might not be a classic of Swedish cinema, but it was still a pretty interesting surprise.
A black-cloaked figure rides in from the horizon on an iron horse. After swerving to miss a kangaroo, though, the masked rider must stop in town for a pit stop. Arriving at the mechanic, the rider is revealed to be Asta Cadell (Deborra-Lee Furness, Newsies, and wife of Hugh Jackman), a hard-edged woman who's as good with her tools as she is with her fists. She stays at his place for the night, where she discovers that the mechanic's daughter, Lizzie (Simone Buchanan, High Country), has just endured a gang rape by the local tough guys and she's being blamed for it. She's scared; they run the town, but Asta builds a bond with her, finally convincing Lizzie to press charges, even if it means Lizzie's own safety.
There's no question that director Steve Jodrell (Big Reef) had the message at the front of his mind when making Shame. It's not the worst thing, I suppose, but it was Jodrell's first movie and its heavy-handedness feels like it. Speeches about the evils of rape and protecting rapists are well-heard, but they all come at the expense of the action and the drama.
Still, there are interesting things about Shame. It plays out, in its way, like an Aussie update of High Noon, with Asta riding out of the night to come in and fix a town full of bullies, bandits, and scared citizens. It doesn't make a thing out of this, but it's classic storytelling. It's just too bad there couldn't have been more of that than there was.
Furness does a good job in that Gary Cooper-style lead role, using her mouth and her fists both do the talking, while the jabbering horde of apes harass her and every other woman in sight. Shame doesn't place the men of the outback in a very good light, but I don't care. It's an average movie with a solid message and a good heart behind it. While not what I would have picked up to watch this evening, I'm glad that I saw it.
Much of the confusion about the identity of Shame comes from the fact that we received a screener from Scorpion Releasing for review. In spite of that, I would expect the performance of the retail version will basically match.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic image looks fairly good. Colors are strong and the detail is there, as much as can be expected, at least. There is some latent dirt and damage on the print, but it's never distracting. The stereo sound is average. There's no real background noise to speak of and the dialog is always clear, but not much dynamic range at any point.
The only extra beyond the film's trailer is an audio commentary featuring Steve Jodrell, Simone Buchanan, and co-writer Michael Brindley. It's standard stuff, but they're entertaining enough to listen to and it makes for a pretty enjoyable look into a movie you might never think to watch.
Shame isn't a great movie. It's heavy-handed with its statement and not always that well executed overall. Still, this is clearly a message-first movie, which comes through loud and clear, and there isn't a good deal of heart behind it. It's hard to recommend outside of a curiosity, but it's certainly not the worst way to spend your time.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Scorpion Releasing
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