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SPANK!

(COMEDY- AUSTRALIAN)

A Palace (Australia) release of an Australian Film Finance Corp. presentation of an UltraFilms production, produced with the assistance of the South Australian Film Corp., Intra Films Srl, the Premium Movie Partnership-Strand/New Oz Prods. (International sales: Fandango, Rome.) Executive Producer, Rolf de Heer. Produced by David Lightfoot.

Directed by Ernie Clark. Screenplay, David Lightfoot, David Farrell. Camera (Cinevex color), David Foreman; editor, Edward McQueen-Mason; music, Scan Timms; production/costume designer, Aphrodite Kondos; art director, Phil McPherson; sound (Dolby digital), Des Kenneally; associate producers, Trudy Talbot, Shana Levine; assistant director, David Lightfoot. Reviewed at Leura screening room, Leura, Australia, June 5, 1999. Running time: 89 MIN.
Paulie                                      Robert Mammone
Rocky                                        Vince Poletto
Jo                                  Victoria Dixon-Whittle
Nick                                           Mario Gamma
Tina                                     Lucia Mastrantone
Vinny                                       Checc Musolino
Ang                                     Marco P. Venturini
Kylie                                       Charlotte Rees
Bruce                                         Nic Hurcombe
Fat Remmy                                   Maris J. Caune
Nick's Ma                                 Rosalba Clemente


A good-natured comedy about a bunch of Italo-Australians involved in the colorful cafe society in Adelaide, the misleadingly rifled "Spank!" only intermittently succeeds in unveiling a subculture. Obviously influenced by Martin Scorsese's piercing studies of Italian-American communities, cinematographer-turned-director Ernie Clark's first film suffers from a thinly constructed screenplay and frequently strident handling. Pic opened June 10 in Adelaide, where it may well attract a following, but elsewhere in Oz and abroad the going will be tougher for this modest production.

Pic's main problems are the essential smallness of the concept and a decided uncertainty of tone. Latter is particularly true of the ensemble performances, which vary widely in style and quality. Paulie (Robert Mammone, in the film's most grounded, effective peri) returns to Adelaide after three years in an Italian monastery. A serious, cultivated young man, he's distressed to find his friends Nick (Mario Gamma) and Vinny (Checc Musolino) are stuck in the same rut they were in when he left.

Vinny's parents run a cafe in the city center, and he works there, after a fashion, along with his sensible g.f., Tina (Lucia Mastrantone), and the extremely lazy Nick. The boys plan to open their own cafe, which they'll call the Blue Velvet (after the David Lynch film), but it's all just talk.

That is, until Rocky (Vince Poletto) makes them an offer. Rocky is a flamboyant young man and is currently riding high because his rich, property-owner father is sick and has unwisely given power of attorney to his son. Rocky, who is a Sly Stallone fan, has seen too many movies, acts like a gangster, drives a sports car, is accompanied everywhere by a trio of dimwitted acolytes and constantly puts down his beautiful g.f., Jo (Victoria Dixon-Whittle). While Paulie reluctantly agrees to help his buddies establish their cafe, under a plan devised by Rocky, he finds himself drawn to Jo, who, clearly wants out of her dead-end relationship with Rocky. From there, the story takes predictable turns, with Rocky's increasingly irrational behavior landing him in trouble and Nick having his own problems in his relationship with an underage girl (Charlotte Rees).

Most of the "comedy" revolves around Rocky's outrageous behavior, but this wears thin. Poletto, a well-known TV actor in Australia and a featured player in the Jackie Chan vehicle "Mr. Nice Guy," is encouraged to overact to the point that Rocky becomes a caricature of an Italian, reducing the comedy in a screenplay that feels increasingly impoverished as the film progresses.

Rest of the cast fares somewhat better, though Dixon-Whittle, a stunning looker in the Charlize Theron mold, suffers from a thinly drawn character whose motivations remain inexplicable. Title refers to the final name given to the cafe the guys establish.

Visually, pic is distinguished by David Foreman's fluid camerawork and the crisp editing style of vet Edward McQueen-Mason. Set mostly inside cafes and restaurants, the film has a consistently bustling atmosphere and certainly presents Adelaide as a colorful, vibrant city. A couple of songs, especially "Blue Velvet Kind o' Night," composed by Sean Timms, are valuable additions to the package.3
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Author:STRATTON, DAVID
Publication:Variety
Date:Jun 21, 1999
Words:664
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