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Film review: BLINDER, from Built For Speed

For a country in which sport is almost a religion it seems strange that Australia has produced so few decent sporting movies.  While American films have successfully turned baseball, into a near-mythic commentary on clashing American values, Australia’s sporting films seem to be little more than a mix of nationalistic chest-beating dramas, well-meaning, blink and you’ll miss them low-budgeters and lame man-child comedies; The Club being an exception.  Unfortunately, the AFL-based drama Blinder does little to improve the status of the Aussie sports film.

Blinder employs a storyline familiar in Aussie dramas, the prodigal son returning to the insular community years after a damaging incident.  Oliver Ackland plays Tommy Dunn a once promising local footballer for the Torquay Tigers who, 10 years earlier, was involved in a sex scandal with an underage girl.  Having fled to the US, he returns to Torquay in an attempt to reconnect with the family and friends he left behind.

Blinder touches on some topical issues such as footballers’ drug use and treatment of women but doesn’t explore these concerns in any depth.  The plight of the young woman involved in the sex scandal isn’t given the weight it deserves and her situation seems more like an inconvenience for Tommy and his former mates.  In fact, the film seems to regard the boys’ blokey camaraderie as more important than her needs.  Consequently, the film’s emphasis on the team’s on-field glory is difficult to embrace.  Also, the film strangely never explores the legal ramifications of the sex scandal.

Blinder also fails to fire as a drama, a problem largely due to the awkward, clichéd dialogue and clunky Aussie-cobblers performances which make it difficult to connect with or sympathise with the main characters. As Tommy, Oliver Ackland isn’t convincing and doesn’t provide the compelling central character the film desperately needs.  Also, with a supporting cast of hair-product pretty boys and a soundtrack full of mediocre Aussie indie music, Blinder looks like what might happen if JJJ tried to make a film about grass roots AFL.

The film throws in Angus Sampson for a bit of comedy relief but apart from the idea of the generously proportioned Sampson trying to pass himself off as an elite footy player amid lean, ultra-fit athletes, he’s not very funny.  The casting of Jack Thompson as the Tigers’ revered coach evokes memories of The Club but this is no David Williamson script and Thompson’s character is a far cry from the conflicted figure he portrayed in that classic that 1979 footy drama. In fact, nearly all Thomson’s dialogue in this film consists of quarter time speeches.

Blinder had promise as an exploration of misogynist football culture and while there are thought- provoking moments, this is ultimately an ineffectual drama and a wasted opportunity.

Nick’s rating: Two and a half stars.

Classification: M

Director(s): Richard Gray

Release date: 7th March 2013

Running time: 119 mins.

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