Spectacularly filmed in the so-called Red Center of Australia, “Back of Beyond” is an indigestible melange of thriller, romance and mystical adventure. Despite top production values and a couple of star names, effort is too unfocused and pedestrian to make much of an impact on any level. Pic stiffed in Aussie release.
Paul Mercurio toplines as Tom McGregor, who runs a remote desert gas station with his sister, Susan (Rebekah Elmaloglou). In an early scene, the siblings are speeding along a dirt road on a motorbike when they dissolve into the landscape. Tom is next seen walking back to the gas station, which appears to have been abandoned.
Various travelers pass by, but the patchy screenplay finally settles on Tom’s involvement with a diamond thief, Connor (ColinFriels), whose car has broken down nearby; Connor sends his girlfriend, Charlie (newcomer Dee Smart), back to the gas station for help, and she and Tom fall for each other.
Director Michael Robertson, best known for his TV commercials, and who previously made the features “The Best of Friends” (1981) and “Going Sane” (1985 ), makes an inauspicious comeback with this confusing and scrappy film, which has a “trick” ending that’s more exasperating than rewarding. Plot contains a number of gaps and the characters are uninterestingly drawn.
As Tom, Mercurio merely goes through the motions; this isn’t therole the actor needed to obliterate the memory of his unfortunate Yank outing “Exit to Eden.” The rest of the cast, with one exception, make little impact. Pic’s main asset, apart from Stephen Dobson’s fine location photography, is Friels’ vigorous portrayal of Connor; with his hair dyed blond, and with the sketchiest of material at his disposal, Friels makes a most enjoyable bad guy.
Incidentally, pic has no connection with John Heyer’s celebrated 1954 docu “The Back of Beyond.”