×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Locusts’

The outback is no place for a city slicker in this watchable if familiar Australian action-thriller.

Director:
Heath Davis
With:
Ben Guerens, Jessica McNamee, Nathaniel Dean, Justin Rosniak
Release Date:
Nov 29, 2019

Running time: 85 MIN.

Almost 50 years after Ted Kotcheff’s “Wake in Fright” memorably introduced the notion of smalltown Australia as Hell-on-Earth, “Locusts” places another city slicker in similarly traumatizing outback peril. This thriller from director Heath Davis (“Book Week,” “Broke”) and firsttime screenwriter Angus Watts is a watchable if familiar rural melodrama about two brothers whose uneasy reunion after an unloved father’s death is greatly complicated by local criminal thugs. Opening at the Arena Cinelounge in Los Angeles on Nov. 29 after traveling the festival circuit, it seems destined to do primary export business as a marketably action-driven streaming item.

Though he looks the very cliché of a wealthy tech entrepreneur, Ryan Black (Ben Guerens) has not, in fact, made bank quite yet — one more factor contributing to his pill-popping anxiety as he most reluctantly travels from Sydney to the inland hometown he hasn’t visited for 20 years. The occasion is the funeral of the drunken, violent father who terrorized his childhood, and apparently offed himself at last. Not bothering to attend the ceremony is long-estranged brother Tyson (Nathaniel Dean), who nonetheless is found shortly afterward carrying on the family tradition by having a punch-up in broad daylight outside a local bar.

Dad (Malcolm Kennard, seen in flashbacks) left zilch behind, apart from his souped-up custom car — and, it seems, a fair share of debt. Which it turns out some among the many scuzzy local bad boys are hoping to collect at a considerable markup from presumed-rich Ryan, with Ty abducted as collateral.

Popular on Variety

Given 48 hours to raise a hundred grand, Ryan enlists help from ex-girlfriend Izzy (Jessica McNamee), now a performer at an improbably slick strip club in the ill-named hamlet of Serenity Crossing. (The film was shot primarily in and around the nation’s longest-running mining community, Broken Hill, in western New South Wales — not coincidentally, also the location for “Wake in Fright.”) It’s her idea that they rob that joint, which briefly takes things in a more broadly comedic direction around the 50-minute mark, with Kenneth Moraleda playing a caricatured immigrant club boss. The story soon reverts to standard violent-thriller terrain, however.

“Locusts” is decently crafted — apart from an over-dependence on blackouts as scene transitions — but too conventionally hyperbolic to drum up much real tension. Nor are there many surprises in Watts’ screenplay, whose eventual twists have an air of soap-operatic contrivance. There’s not enough psychological depth to the writing to give the competent cast much to chew on. Still, all do their best in fairly one-dimensional roles.

It all goes down easily enough, if unmemorably so. There’s sufficient outback atmosphere in Carlo Crescini’s dusty production design and Chris Bland’s handsome widescreen photography. However, the answer to “How many shots of roadkill can you have in an outback-purgatory movie like this?” turns out to be “Too many.” Perhaps all of that is an homage to the 1971 Kotcheff film’s notoriously bloody (and real) kangaroo hunt.

“Locusts” is dedicated to the memory of Damian Hill, the versatile actor (“Pawno,” “West of Sunshine”) who plays one of the central goons here, and who passed away last year at age 42.

Film Review: 'Locusts'

Reviewed online, San Francisco, Oct. 29, 2019. Running time: 85 MIN.

Production: (Australia) A Fizz-E-Motion release of an Estranged Films presentation, in association with Closereef Films, Bonsai Films. Producer: Angus Watts. Executive producers: David Whealy, Watts, Jonathan Page, Nathaniel Dean, Alana Collins, Dov Kornits. Co-producers: Heath Davis, Collins.

Crew: Director: Heath Davis. Screenplay: Angus Watts. Camera (color, widescreen, HD): Chris Bland. Editor: Romain Mongin. Music: Burkhard Dallwitz.

With: Ben Guerens, Jessica McNamee, Nathaniel Dean, Justin Rosniak, Steve Le Marquand, Damian Hill, Alan Dukes, Andy McPhee, Peter Phelps, Caroline Brazier, George Burgess, Malcolm Kennard, Ryan Morgan, Kenneth Moraleda.

More Film

  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

    COLA Announces California On-Location Awards Winners

    “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” “Dolemite is My Name,” and HBO’s “Ballers” are among the winners of this year’s COLA awards. The COLAs recognize location managers, public employees and other professionals who help facilitate on-location production across the Golden State. This year’s awards program was held at the Universal Hilton. Finalists and winners are [...]

  • French movie director Jean Luc Godard

    How Anna Karina and Jean-Luc Godard Immortalized Each Other (Guest Column)

    With the passing of Anna Karina, a curtain has fallen on the French New Wave, that fabled cinematic movement that brought fame to the man who made her name, Jean-Luc Godard. Yes, Godard is still with us, as is “Breathless” star Jean-Paul Belmondo (practically the last of the living New Wave legends), but his moviemaking [...]

  • Richard Jewell

    Box Office: Clint Eastwood Suffers Worst Opening in Four Decades With 'Richard Jewell'

    Clint Eastwood might end up with a lump of box office coal after “Richard Jewell” sputtered in its domestic debut. Despite critical acclaim, Warner Bros.’ drama about the security guard falsely accused by the media for playing a part in the 1996 Olympics bombing ignited with a dismal $5 million from 2,502 theaters. It’s a [...]

  • (from left) Tom (Henry Golding) and

    Emilia Clarke's 'Last Christmas' Crosses $100 Million at Global Box Office

    Universal’s “Last Christmas,” a romantic comedy starring Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding, surpassed $100 million in global ticket sales. The milestone is a win for original fare, one that is especially impressive considering the movie was skewered by critics for its wacky twist ending. After six weeks in theaters, “Last Christmas” has earned $34.4 million [...]

  • DSCF0855.RAF

    'Jumanji 2' Rules Overseas Box Office With $85 Million

    Sony’s “Jumanji: The Next Level” powered international box office charts, collecting $85 million from 34 markets over the weekend. The action-packed sequel kicked off in North America with $60 million for a global start of $145 million. “Jumanji: The Next Level” debuted in a handful of foreign territories last weekend, bringing box office receipts to [...]

  • Rey (Daisy Ridley) in STAR WARS:

    Disney Plus Signs Exclusive Distribution Deal With Canal Plus in France

    Ahead of its launch in France on March 31, 2020, Disney Plus has signed an exclusive distribution agreement with Canal Plus Group, the country’s leading pay-TV company. The deal, which was first reported in the French newspaper Les Echos and confirmed by Canal Plus Group CEO Maxime Saada on his Twitter account, marks a new [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content