Running Time: 89 minutes
Rated: Rated M (moderate violence, moderate coarse language and sexual references)
Eli (David Lyons) is kidnapped from his Sydney home in the quiet hours of the night and, the kidnapper, John Kelly (Travis McMahon), embarks on a journey into the Australian Outback towards the place where his hostage is due for delivery. As time and distance roll by, the strength and endurance of both men are tested. When a violent unexpected event occurs on the roadside, both men discover something they were not expecting.
Cactus is a fairly decent psychological thriller from our local industry. Shot in high definition, in sequence, and quickly it has a slow enough start, with endless shots of the Australian bush, but it gains momentum by the end of the first of its three acts.
Written and directed by Jasmine Yuen Carrucan, Cactus has several excellent "reveals', those filmic moments which the audience is let into an essential element in this vigilante justice drama.
As with most films in this genre, the believability factor is hard to maintain. For instance the idea that a driver thinks he can close an outback main road and not be detected is beyond the pale. Also, it really stretches our belief to accept that within two days of a kidnapping and torture, the abductor and the abductee form a bond.
Much more seriously is the lack of character development in the story. For us to invest in this setup we need flashbacks, or more history of the two men. This information need not give away the plot, but teases the audience into the psychological mosaic which sees these two men in this place right now.
To some viewers the violent language and atmosphere of Cactus will be too much, but within this desperate situation rules civility count for nothing.
The unexpected ending is more hopeful and welcome.
Hoyts Out May 1
Fr Richard Leonard SJ is the director of the Australian Catholic Film Office.