An ambitious, tabbouleh-flavored gang drama from Down Under, "The Combination" has some exceptional young actors and slick visuals but falls short on the drama front.

An ambitious, tabbouleh-flavored gang drama from Down Under, “The Combination” has some exceptional young actors and slick visuals but falls short on the drama front. First feature by veteran Oz character actor David Field, spotlighting racial tensions between Sydney’s Lebanese youth and a mainly Anglo community, is primarily a vehicle for actor/writer/co-producer George Basha to strut his macho stuff. This awkwardly scripted effort is more likely to excel on Aussie ancillary than in cinemas, though fests looking for Mideast-themed curios may want to take a look.

Onetime boxer and recent jailbird John Morkos (Basha, strongest on presence, weakest on acting) is dismayed when his homecoming reveals his teenage brother Charlie (Firass Dirani, impressive) is running with violent Lebanese street gangs. Ignoring his brother’s sage advice, Charlie puts John’s newly reformed life — including his romance with a blonde Aussie girl, Sydney (Clare Bowen) — under threat. Robust supporting perfs from young unknowns contrast with the script’s bumbling, honorable intentions and TV-soap sensibility. Co-producer Field’s adequate helming is boosted by Toby Oliver’s impeccably lush widescreen HD cinematography. Rest of the tech package is pro, though dialogue in the opening reels sounds muddy.

The Combination

Australia

Production

An Australian Film Syndicate presentation of a See Thru production. (International sales: Thru Film, Sydney.) Produced by John Pirrie. Co-producers, George Basha, David Field. Directed by David Field. Screenplay, George Basha.

Crew

Camera (color, HD-to-35mm, widescreen), Toby Oliver; editor, Ken Sallows; music, Labib Jamal; production designer, Xanthe Highfield. Reviewed at Verona Cinema 4, Sydney, Feb. 21, 2009. Arabic, English dialogue. Running time: 96 MIN.

With

George Basha, Doris Younane, Clare Bowen, Firass Dirani, Michael Denkha, Tony Ryan, Katrina Rieteska, Guang Li, Vano Rafik, Rashad Dehan, Rahel Abdul Rahman, Vaughn White, Ali Haider.
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