BR: Odd Angry Shot, The (1979)

December 18, 2013 | By

Return to: Home Blu-ray, DVD, Film Reviews / N to O


Film: Very Good/ BR Transfer: Excellent/ BR Extras: Excellent

Label: Synapse Films / Regions: A-B-C / Released: September 3, 2013

Genre: War / Action / Drama / Satire

Synopsis: Australia involvement in the Vietnam War is documented in his odd dramatic-comedic hybrid.

Special Features:  Audio Commentary with writer-director Tom Jeffrey, co-producer Sue Milliken, and actor Graeme Blundell / Interview: “Stunts Down Under” with Buddy Joe Hooker / Original Theatrical Trailer / Reversible Cover.




A critical self-examination of Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War from the grunt level, The Odd Angry Shot follows a group of mixed level recruits – one brand spanking new, others more seasoned career men – sent into the mounting conflagration in support of U.S. troops before the war went into full gear.

Writer-director Tom Jeffrey adapted William L. Nagle’s novelistic memoir into a highly peculiar drama which delivers wartime details with glaring gore, evokes some of the absurdism and nihilism of a Stanley Kubrick war meditation, and augers the doom and gloom with humour that has more to do with drinking tomfoolery and pranks reminiscent of Robert Altman’s M*A*S*H (1970).

Jeffrey starts the film with new recruit Bill (John Jarratt) bidding family and girlfriend goodbye before (literally) leaving on a jet plane bound for ‘Nam, meeting his band of merry mates, and soon receiving his first exposure to grisly, gory battle. Little by little the focus – perhaps nudged by the film’s limited budget – switches to increasingly lengthy vignettes of soldier ennui – a state that motivates the men to question the validity of their noble endeavor to protect a quadrant of Asia from Communism. The men’s ongoing, invective-bared side comments are eventually capped by a stellar monologue from veteran soldier Harry (Graham Kennedy) about the grunts, volunteers, and peerage appointments for upper-class pencil pushers, and the drama winds down with a simple visual image that has the film’s two main characters –Harry and newbie Bill – wondering what their country’s involvement was all about, especially after their buddy Bung (ebullient scene-stealer John Hargreaves) is caught in a bridge-level fracas.

Jeffrey’s use of roving camera, taught editing, and local military recruits and machinery add great production value – the helicopter scenes are beautifully choreographed – but there’s a perfunctory feel to the action scenes, and one gets a sense the director would’ve been more content making a film almost exclusively about the seething nature of boredom that besets foot soldiers trained for action but are often forced to sit still and wait. That perspective makes Shot wholly different from a standard wartime drama, especially Hollywood fodder where conflicts propel the story, but to boost the soldier’s ennui, there are many, many scenes where the men drink from a seemingly unlimited supply of standard issue brew. Tossed in is a ‘wacky’ spider vs. scorpion sequence hosted by the Yanks, and a drunken brawl torn straight from a Howard Hawks sixties actioner.

When tragedy strikes, it’s similarly perfunctory – shit happens, the men react with emotional restraint, and move on – but there is one major disjoint in Jeffrey’s otherwise briskly paced film: Rogers’ injury, which is shown after an off-screen explosive incident. There’s a sense the edit was meant as stark contrast – showing Rogers (Bryan Brown) previously laughing with his mates one moment, and lying grievously scarred seconds later in a field – but it feels as though material meant to have been filmed as a lead-up to such an important character was never done or dropped, hence the awkward smash-cut.

Using a grating custom-fitted military carol, the overlong trailer repeatedly emphasizes that Shot is about “Aussies being Aussies” but the film is really a carefully assembled critique meant to tease average moviegoers with genre clichés, some nudity, action, gore, reams of barbed invective, and sometimes grotesque visuals. Produced when the Vietnam War was not a popular topic of discussion or subject for feature films, Shot was mean to gradually bring audiences to the soldiers’ side, and plant the seeds of discourse.

Jeffrey’s approach to letting his subtext seep out from the tropes doesn’t wholly work, but as a document of Australia’s involvement in the war during the late sixties, and presenting combat from the muddied, rain-drenched level of underpaid recruits, it’s a unique work with an accomplished group of cast & crew as the country’s film industry was shifting into full-on renaissance.

To international audiences, the most well-known star among the cast remains Bryan Brown (The Thorn Birds, F/X, Tai-Pan), plus cinematographer Donald McAlpine (Predator, The Edge, Moulin Rouge) and camera operator John Seal (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, The Mosquito Coast) who gave the film its exceptional visuals and sophisticated camera movements. American Buddy Joe Hooker, who appears in a short anecdotal featurette, functioned as stunt coordinator and second unit director, and Michael Carlos’ score is either deliberately tinny for extra satirical texture, or just plain distracting most of the time, sounding like stock music from vintage military training shorts, and detracting from the film’s most dramatic scenes.

Synapse’s Blu-ray sports a gorgeous 1.78:1 transfer of the uncut 92 mins. Australian version, boasting sharp details and strong colours, and a great DTS mono mix. (An alternate ‘soft’ version, shot simultaneously with less profane dialogue for TV and the U.S. market, was also edited but apparently never used.)

The onboard commentary track assembles the film’s director, co-producer, and supporting actor in a fairly lively, steady discussion of the production, its historical significance, and the personalities of its memorable cast, especially scene stealer Hargreaves, best-known for his starring role in Everett De Roche’s weird eco-terror drama Long Weekend (1978).

A skilled director originally from TV, Tom Jeffrey directed a mere three feature films – The Removalists (1975) with John Hargreaves, Weekend of Shadows (1978) with Bryan Brown, and The Odd Angry Shot (1979) – and although he does discuss the making of the film on the commentary track, there’s no background on his career, nor explanation for stepping away from feature films after making such a high-profile work.



© 2013 Mark R. Hasan


External References:



Vendor Search Links: New movie releases on iTunes

Return toHome Blu-ray, DVD, Film Reviews N to O

Tags: , , , , , ,

Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

Comments are closed.