1%, Australia, 2017. Starring Ryan Corr, Abby Lee, Matt Nable, Simon Kessel, Josh McConville, Aaron Pedersen, Jacqui Williams. Directed by Stephen McCallum. 92 minutes. Rated MA (Strong themes, sexual violence, sex scenes and coarse language.)
The title is arresting but could be about anything! In fact, it is about bikies – and there needs to be a distinction immediately between bikie gangs and bikie clubs. One of the meanings of 1% is that these are the gangs who capitalise on drugs and money laundering.
Not everyone will want to see a film about bikie clubs let alone bikie gangs. This one is about gangs. The bikies look formidable sitting on their high-powered machines, helmets which may be protective but make them look sinister. Then there are the jackets, the emblems, the tattoos. Some of them look so hard, tough, that they do not elicit audience curiosity.
This film is frighteningly watchable.
The setting is Western Australia, the focus on to gangs, one of which is led by a rather terrifying Sugar, Aaron Pedersen, the rival gang temporarily led by Mark (“Paddo”) Ryan Corr while the “President” Knuck (a title which he over-relishes), played by Matt Nable, who wrote the screenplay, is serving a three-year sentence in prison. While Mark is temporarily in charge, he is encouraged to make a deal with Sugar for laundering the drug money. He is encouraged by the President’s girlfriend, Hayley (Simon Kessel). They have an audience in prison with the “President” but he resents anyone interfering with his power.
And then he gets out. He throws his weight around, has his loyal followers, especially in the clubhouse, a big area where members can play pool, drink, horse around, indulge in sexual activity. At the bar is Mark’s wife (Abby Lee, model and actress for Victoria’s Secret, Calvin Klein, appearing in both American and Australian film is). We discover that looks can be deceiving. She is pretty and glamorous, even at the bikie club. But, as many have noted, she soon begins to remind us of Lady Macbeth, the power behind the would-be throne.
Knuck is a jealous man, loving his partner but not necessarily in love with her. In prison, he has had homosexual experiences and, on release, has something of a roving eye, especially on a young accountant, friend Mark, who becomes Knuck’s victim.
The action soon becomes quite bikie-Shakespearean, Knuck continually asserting his authority is acting capriciously, Mark having to go to Sugar to try to recently negotiate the deal. Clearly, the setting up of battlelines.
There are brawls at the club. There is even a siege of Mark’s house in a pleasant suburban street. There are bodies lying in the garden and backyard.
The pawn in all of this activity is Mark’s rather simple brother, Skink (a very convincing performance bringing in quite some emotion by Josh McConville), who makes all kinds of mistakes, regrets, dreams of a relationship with a girl but is betrayed by one of the women down at the club, has to be defended all the time by Mark. He also becomes a pawn in his sister-in-law’s ambitions which leads to mistakes, Skink having to be defended, deaths and, as in Shakespeare, the end of an era and a new kingdom being set up. We cannot predict who will be the survivors.
As was said earlier in this review, frighteningly watchable.
Dendy/Icon Released 18th October
Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.