Reviewed by Jenny LeComte
Rating: 6.5 Beans
n ‘Easy Rider’, a man went looking for America and couldn’t find it anywhere. In ‘Stone’, they went looking for good acting, a believable story line and a reason to fly the Australian flag at Cannes and they didn’t find it, either.
I suppose we can blame the multi-talented Sandy Harbutt for that. He wrote, directed and starred in this ode to the one-percenters currently burning up Australia’s vast
highway network. Hey, Sandy, haven’t you ever heard of delegating?
I suppose I shouldn’t knock one of my fellow countrymen, but Australian film-makers really should stop making poor imitations of blockbuster American movies. ‘Easy
Rider’, that quintessential bikies’ film which pre-dated ‘Stone’ by five years, featured fine actors (Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper and Jack Nicholson), a gutsy theme
(disillusionment and the high price of freedom), a killer soundtrack and gorgeous scenery.
About the only way in which ‘Stone’ can compete is with the scenery. Even with a ham-fisted cameraman high on too many shots of Peruvian marching powder, you can’t go wrong with that picturesque stretch of highway between Sydney and Gosford.
Where in America have you got a coastal thoroughfare hewn out of sandstone? From the meandering hills of North Sydney to the Gothic seaside barracks where the bikies have made their illegal home, ‘Stone’ is a visual treat par excellence. All right, all right. While I’m in a forgiving mood, the soundtrack isn’t bad, either. Australia definitely holds its own as far as music is concerned.
However, this movie isn’t about pretty scenery or music. It’s about death and destruction. Or it’s supposed to be, at any rate. It comes across more as a B-grade whodunit. It begins when members of the fictitious Grave Diggers motorcycle gang attend a peace rally in the park and witness the assassination of a prominent environmentalist. The biker who actually saw the bullet being fired was so out of his skull on LSD at the time that he couldn’t even tie his laces let alone be a star witness.
This didn’t seem to bother the assassin who went on to garrotte one, throw another from a cliff and pick nearly everyone else off one by one. Undertaker, the Grave Diggers’ leader (played by Harbutt, naturally) is mad as hell and doesn’t want to take it any more, but can’t seem to clear his marijuana-fogged brain long enough to do anything. His surviving buddies - Stinkfinger, Buzzard, Hanburger and Dr Death - seemed to have gotten in at the shallow end of the gene pool. Otherwise, they’re depriving far-flung villages of idiots. Murder investigations? Nah!
They’re too busy smoking dope, getting drunk, harassing straights and playing strip poker with their revolving girlfriends, who they collectively address as Moll to save the trouble of remembering their names. Mind you, the girls all look like Boris Karloff. Except Undertaker’s lady, a former model who won’t get out of bed for less than 10,000 bongs.
Enter Stone, an undercover cop who looks like he got chucked out of the Mod Squad for wearing a bad wig. He’s played by Ken Shorter, an actor who I can’t remember
appearing on Australian TV screens in the 70s and hope isn’t planning to do so in the foreseeable future. Stone decides to infiltrate the bikie gang to find out who’s
knocking them off. He chooses an outfit which he hopes will enable him to blend in - a pure white jumpsuit, blue love beads and the aforementioned bad wig. Naturally, such an outfit makes Stone stick out like a sore thumb. However, it does set off his bottle tan and carefully waxed chest with aplomb.
Walking into the bar, Stone sidles up to Undertaker and says: ‘Hey, d’yall sell beer?’
How he managed to survive without getting his colon thoroughly irrigated is beyond me, particularly when he flashes a toothy grin at the snarling bikies and announces: ‘I’m a cop.’ How to make friends and influence enemies, it wasn’t. However, Undertaker decides to take pity on the poor mite who obviously isn’t cut out for undercover work and would rather be home smoking dope with his model girlfriend Vanessa (played by the now legend-in-her-own-lunchbox Rebecca Gilling).
Stone gets to work quickly. After having a stack (ie - falling off his bike in a very painful and gravel-rashy way) somewhere near Milson’s Point, he moves into the Gothic seaside barracks with the lads and learns the rules. Smoke a lot of dope. Sleep. Shine your motorcycle. And when that gets boring, go to the pub. However, horizontal folk-dancing with the Boris Karloff lookalikes is strictly verboten. ‘Don’t mess with our molls,’ Undertaker growls. No, people, Sandy Harbutt is NOT what you’d call a Sensitive New Age Man.
Stone, naturally, ignores this advice and even entices the lads (and ladettes) into a bit of nude body-surfing. American movies have nude scenes, too, but they’re all sanitised. You don’t see anything which isn’t tanned, gym toned and silicon enhanced to within an inch of its life. In this film, you get to see the lot - flabby bums, love handles, beer bellies, bad tattoos, horrible chest-wigs and droopy bits. I felt like standing up and
giving three cheers. Despite the male chauvinist pig overtones of the rest of the film and the decided lack in entertainment value, the nude scene in ‘Stone’ will go a long way towards promoting positive body images.
The rest of the movie, however, wasn’t so cheery. Stone found the assassin and ensured a sticky end ensued. Then the bikies came round to get their revenge on Stone in a bloody and horrible way. Revenge? For bloody what? Flirting with their molls? Causing a stack in North Sydney? Buggered if I know. I think Halbutt just decided to waste someone for the sake of it and a bloke in a bad wig was as good a victim as any.
Historical note. North Sydney, where most of this movie was filmed, is no longer the home of bikies but of well-suited yuppies who tote two cell phones simultaneously, decorate their offices with dolly birds as well as plants and have very small...no, we
won’t go there! Watching this movie was strange for me. I am forced to make the daily commute to North Sydney because of work reasons and I’ve always thought the place was full of shit. This has only confirmed it!
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