IN LIKE FLYNN. Australia, 2018. Starring Thomas Cocquerel, Cory Large, William Moseley, Clive Standen, Callan Mulvey, David Wenham, David Hennessey, Isabel Lucas, Grace Huang, Costas Mandylor, Lochlyin Munro, Dan Fogler. Directed by Russell Mulcahy. 97 minutes. No rating available.
Is Errol Flynn household name? The phrase which is the title of the film has entered into the English language, a linguistic memorial, so to speak, to Errol Flynn. So, it depends on knowledge of and/or interest in Flynn as to how engaging this film is.
For those in the know, Errol Flynn was from Tasmania and in his 20s lived an adventurous life. And this is the subject of this film, Errol Flynn before Hollywood and international success.
The screenplay gets down to things instantly. Here is Flynn leading a small expedition, travelling into almost-forbidden territory along Papua New Guinea’s Sepik River, locals working with him as carriers and guides, but a Hollywood producer with his cameraman trying to get exotic footage. They get more than they bargained for, painted headhunters attack them; they go beyond forbidden boundaries, decapitated heads, parts of bodies hanging from the trees, more than a touch of blood and gore, arrows, wounds, falling over cliffs, finally escaping the deadly dangers.
This gives something of the flavour of Flynn’s story, the cheeky Australian, mentioning that he is son of a professor, wandering the world, drinking, the touch of womanising, plenty of brawls and fights (some of which would describe his subsequent life, especially leading up to his untimely death in 1959). Thomas Cocquerel makes for a handsome and active, a potential swashbuckler.
The main part of this film is action and adventure, Flynn and his friend Rex (Corey Large), a bare knuckle fighter, going to an opium den, being drugged, but Flynn stealing the sailing boat from these Chinese pirates in Sydney. Flynn and Rex are bound fool New Guinea again, seeking gold. They are joined by a friend who has the touch of the top, Duke, and Charlie, who originally owned the boat which was captured by the Chinese pirates.
They sail up the coast of New South Wales and Queensland, bond between themselves, find themselves in Townsville which is being run by an absolute rogue who has all kinds of business interests, setting up illegal knuckle fights, serving as religious Minister on Sundays (with David Wenham playing him all stops out).
So, more fistfights, Flynn meeting an old girlfriend, Rose (Isabel Lucas) who ultimately out-Flynn’s Flynn. They escape, make their way to New Guinea but don’t quite arrive there. Flynn’s alternative? To remember the offer from the Hollywood producer, try his luck, go to Los Angeles where we see him filming Captain Blood with Olivia Haviland (though he had appeared in five films and two shorts before this). Up on the screen comes a close-up of Blood and Olivia and the caption The End. The end of this film – but, the beginning for Errol Flynn who achieved instant success and popularity, top Hollywood presence during the 1930s and 1940s, declining in the 1950s to his death.
A pity that this film doesn’t show Errol Flynn’s performance for Charles Chauvel in the semi-documentary In The Wake of the Bounty where he plays, rather woodenly and giving no indication of future screen career and presence, Fletcher Christian. The screenplay is based on Flynn’s book Beam Ends – where, perhaps, he did not mention Chauvel’s film and his performance, preferring the Hollywood image.
Backlot Released September 27th
Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.