In their attempt to make a left-wing thriller with popular appeal, Australia's Macau Collective has produced an earnest piece of agitprop that shares many of the drawbacks of Hollywood action pictures. RESISTANCE looks great and delivers the promised thrills, but it's so simple-minded as
to be instantly forgettable.
In the very near future, an unspecified nation (clearly Australia) is on the verge of collapse. In response to an economic crisis and widespread labor unrest, a state of emergency has been declared, and the military has been charged with subduing the enemy within. In the outback town of Ithaca
Plains, the region's largest employer, Ithaca Flour, has downscaled its hiring of day laborers; the indigenous people, other locals, and various itinerants who've gathered to harvest the wheat are infuriated. When violence breaks out, Mr. Strickland (Bogdan Koca), the company's heartless CEO,
calls in the military. Within hours, an anti-terrorist squad headed by Colonel Webber (Stephen Leeder) has appeared on the scene. Chief among its targets are Wiley (Robyn Nevin), a feisty labor organizer, and Natalie (Helen Jones), a beautiful aborigine who's returned home after growing
disillusioned with urban life. One young conscript, Eric (Donal Gibson), is instantly smitten by her. Wiley's erstwhile boyfriend and political ally, Peter (Hugh Keays-Byrne), is dragged away and interrogated, but he's eventually released. Shortly thereafter, however, Wiley herself is murdered by
Meanwhile, in order to remain financially afloat, Ithaca Flour employee Jean (Lorna Lesley) has been moonlighting as a waitress at the local truckstop. When her husband Autrey (Sam Toomey) and two fellow convicts stage a daring escape from Hungerford Prison Farm, they're captured and slaughtered
by the colonel's sadistic henchman Peach (Harold Hopkins). With Natalie's help, Jean steals her husband's corpse from the military and they cremate it on a funeral pyre.
Immediately thereafter, Jean's contract with Ithaca Flour is terminated. Deciding to leave town with her two children, she agrees to travel with Peter. While Peter waits in her caravan, she returns to Red's Truckstop to collect her wages from Ruby (Jennifer Claire), the blowzy proprietor. Ruby
refuses to pay her, and Jean breaks into Ruby's apartment, hoping to steal the money owed to her. Within moments, she's confronted by Ruby and Strickland, but Peter, seeking revenge for Wiley's death, bursts into the room and takes the duo hostage, affording Jean the opportunity to disappear into
the crowd gathered outside. By the time the ensuing melee subsides, the military has herded everyone together, including Strickland, who's slaughtered by Peach. Having repeatedly witnessed the atrocities perpetrated by his superiors, Eric finally switches his allegiance and guns Peach down, after
which the locals seize control and oust their military foes. Jean drives off into the sunset while the remaining inhabitants of Ithaca Plains get back to business.
At first, the stylish, boldly colored RESISTANCE, with its arresting vision of a dystopian present, seems to strike just the right balance of political imperative and entertainment value. Then the opening credits end. The rest of the film is as cliched as any Hollywood product. Workers are
unfailingly noble. The military-industrial complex is evil incarnate. Rural is wholesome. Cities destroy the soul.
The film's screenplay, developed collaboratively over a period of several years, unfolds from entirely too many points-of-view. Dramatically, the film's best moments occur during the crowd scenes, when the major characters and their respective story lines briefly converge. Otherwise, RESISTANCE
struggles to sustain dramatic momentum. The film's main characters are two-dimensional at best--and that's just the protagonists. The antagonists are grotesques. Strickland, who spends an inordinate amount of time hanging out on the street for a corporate bigwig, has a disconcertingly obscure
European accent. The film taps into a hoary Hollywood stereotype of fascists as homosexuals: the vilest character, Peach, is a sadistic gay, and all the military officers are portrayed as decadent Nazis, some of whom are actually heard singing German lieder. Conversely, the indigenous characters
who populate the film, with the exception of Natalie, are portrayed in such a benign light that they lack credibility as human beings.
The filmmakers behind RESISTANCE want it both ways--to be both cutting-edge and mainstream, politically sophisticated yet comprehensible to the layman. What they offer instead is a naive portrayal of broad-based corruption which will offend far more viewers than it enlightens. (Graphic violence,sexual situations, adult situations, profanity.)
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- Released: 1994
- Rating: NR
- Review: In their attempt to make a left-wing thriller with popular appeal, Australia's Macau Collective has produced an earnest piece of agitprop that shares many of the drawbacks of Hollywood action pictures. RESISTANCE looks great and delivers the promised thril… (more)