The 1996 Australian film Idiot Box follows two major film cliches. First, it patterns itself after Martin
Scorsese's Mean Streets, with its somewhat repentant protagonist and more anarchic, violent, chaotic secondary
lead. This is a dynamic that countless films, from Laws of Gravity to Federal Hill to Menace II
Society, have followed with varying degrees of success. Secondly, it revolves around some major doofuses planning a
bank robbery with no real notion of what they're doing. Every film school guy, it seems, dreams of pulling off the big heist
and from Reservoir Dogs to Bottle Rocket to Dead Presidents has attempted it. Idiot Box
plods through these standard conventions with a few side-trips into other styles, from Seven's credit sequence, to
Trainspotting's frantic pace and heroin visuals, to Altman-esque multi-thread plotting.
If this review so far reads like a list of other people's movies it's because Idiot Box feels like watching a clip
show of recent movie highlights (with thick, indecipherable accents thrown in for good measure). Even the title and the one
original touch (the constant intercutting of fragments of TV shows) indicate that the film and the characters are constructed
out of movies that came before. The plot concerns Mick (Jeremy Sims) and Kev (Ben Mendelsohn), playing the Mean
Streets Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro characters, respectively, as they bum around suburban Australia drinking
beer and pulling off petty crimes and annoyances. They get the idea that they should rob a bank from watching someone
else pull it off on the news. As they plan the heist the film also shows us a couple of other stories: The cops staking out the
real robbers and a couple slowly losing everything to the woman's heroin addiction. None of this is too compelling since it
never shakes the sense that we've seen it all before. Still, it's handled with style and charisma and when the inevitable
ending arrives, it is played out with just enough mystery and ambiguity that it still manages to come as something of a surprise.
The non-anamorphic video looks good. A few specks appear here and there but overall it's clean and crisp. Colors are a
little desaturated, but that seems to be a stylistic choice. Overall this is a very well shot film with off-balance compositions
that help the emphasize isolation and boredom of the characters. Overscan poses a problem, however, for the opening
credits, which are designed up to the edges of the screen. Lots of letters are cut off.
The audio is Dolby Digital 2.0. There is a huge difference in volume between the blaring music and the mumbled dialog, so
a lot of volume knob riding is in order. No subtitles are included, which is a shame, since the actors have tough accents. The
closing credits reveal that the film was released in DTS in selected theaters but alas no such luck on getting a DTS track on
A five minute behind the scenes segment that consists of about four minutes of clips from the movie and one minute of
interviews with the cast and crew. A trailer and some bios are also included.
Idiot Box may think it's making a statement about violence gleaned from too much TV but it's nothing more yet another violent entertainment itself. Still, fans of wham-bang Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels flicks will find
plenty to like here.