Written by: John White on March 28th, 2006
Theatrical Release Date: Australia, 1994
Director: Geoffrey Wright
Cast: Aden Young, Tara Morice, Nadine Garner, Ben Mendelsohn
DVD released: April 25th 2006
Approximate running time: 115 mins
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital 2.0/5.1
DVD Release: Subversive Cinema
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $29.95
Joe is the son of a mad Romanian father who dreams of being a great racer instead of the loser everyone takes him for. When Joe starts a new job he meets philandering Dazey who is seeing most of Melbourne’s female population in spite of his girlfriend, Rosalynd. Dazey makes Joe promise to secrecy after witnessing an indiscretion in the storeroom and thus begins an unlikely friendship based on a love of fast cars. Dazey attracts the attentions of satanist co-worker, Savina, whom Joe likes and a destructive triangle proceeds to lead to Savina splitting the two friends and in turn being rejected by Dazey who returns to Rosalynd. The consequences of this fallout prove extreme leading to a duel to the death.
Geoffrey Wright is best known for his skinheads flick, Romper Stomper, which leased the joy of Russell Crowe onto the unsuspecting world of hotel receptionists. Metal Skin is a similarly intense slice of life boasting violence, mental breakdowns, satanism in a church, some sex and car chases. The director’s intention in this work, which he also wrote, is to talk about the impossibility of relationships in the ’90s.
Metal Skin is therefore equal parts adolescent angst and social commentary. The leading players consist of a social incompetent haunted by caring for his sick father, a young woman who sacrifices rats to upset her religious mother, a shallow lothario and his disfigured true love. The film presents us with these young characters who clearly never had a chance to live happy lives being tortured by their lot and seeking quick thrills and empty gratification to wash their thoughts away. Rather than be helped by their elders they find Alzheimers victims and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder sufferers as their parents.
I do like a bit of social commentary, but the writing of character in Metal Skin is so woefully inadequate and full of off the peg cliché that the film does become little more than a pretentious Pretty in Pink. The lead actors are so desperate to emote and to revivify the spirit of Jimmy Dean that their performances are cardboard cutouts. The shape of the screenplay is deliberately non-judgemental and this is rather silly given Dazeys’ obvious lack of sympathetic motivation. After causing the death of one jilted lover he merely jumps into the arms of another one he is guilty of disfiguring previously. Even in the sympathetic character of Joe the sript fails to convince. The build up to Joe going postal with his dad’s gun is so overegged and hyperbolic that it is untrue – my true love has killled herself after sacrificing chickens to Satan and some thugs beat up my mad dad, ok I can go a tiny bit psycho now!
Metal Skin is a world where adults don’t really exist and humanity is simply interested in being cool, unfortunately the lack of subtlety in editing, mise-en-scene or acting merely mirrors the MTV world it criticises. Metal Skin also boasts the kind of MOR soundtrack that Mark Knopfler was inflicting on the world in the previous decade. Metal Skin is not subtle and has very little to say which isn’t blindingly obvious. It’s strongest point is wonderful photography from Ron Hagen who shows an artistry foreign to anyone else involved here.
Metal Skin comes with a gorgeous print and a spotless transfer and terrific sound quality in either 5.1 or stereo.
The extras are the bounty of the director’s 57 min film Loverboy, a making of documentary and a commentary. Trailers, an introduction and cast bios are also included. The disc also comes with a limited edition soundtrack CD for those of you who find Dire Straits a bit too radical.
Subversive keep up their record of doing great work on the films they release but in this case, unlike The Witch Who Came in From The Sea, the source material doesn’t merit it such lavish release.
For more information about Metal Skin visit Subversive Cinema here.