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Metal Skin

Subversive Cinema // Unrated // April 25, 2006
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Todd Douglass Jr. | posted April 20, 2006 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

I have to admit right off the bat that I have never seen Geoffrey Wright's Romper Stomper. In fact I have never really sat down to watch any of Wright's films until I had the chance to check out Metal Skin. On the surface the movie looks like a psychedelic Fast and the Furious with crappy cars, but once you check under the hood you realize that there is a bit of black magic and hopeless romance tossed in for good measure. It's a strange combination that makes for a unique experience, but ultimately one that's a little too far out in left field for your average viewer.

Metal Skin's prominent theme has to do with the junk racers that revolve around the characters. It starts out on the street and ends on the street with a whole lot of gearhead mumbo jumbo in between. This seems to be kind of a subculture in Australian youth and is depicted here as a means to an end. An otherwise worthless nobody to society can become well respected among his peers if he knows how to drive a mean machine.

The movie focuses on a young guy named Joe (Aden Young) who has Austin Powers-like teeth, a creepy personality, and is an angry, yet soft spoken degenerate. He mopes around for most of the film and quickly works his strangeness into most scenes. To accompany his "charming" personality are other areas of his personal life. Joe lives on the outskirts of town in a dilapidated shack with his crazy father who has a fetish for walking into the street in his bathrobe and shooting a gun down the road.

Needless to say Joe is not your average, well… Joe. He's a strange guy and isn't very likeable. Fortunately thanks to Young's performance, the character actually makes his presence known on the screen, despite being quiet all of the time. Even when he's just stocking shelves at the freakish grocery store he demands attention, but it's not necessarily the good kind. With all of this in mind it's understandable why our buddy Joe has such a hard time with the ladies. Well, that is at least until he meets another psychopath named Savina (Tara Morice).

Savina comes from a deeply religious family though she actually worships Satan in her spare time. Some people crochet, others read books, or even draw to pass the time, but not dear Savina. At any rate, she cast a spell to make Joe's friend Dazey (Ben Mendelsohn) fall in love with her, but finds that even her dark magic didn't work the way that she planned it to. I found her character to be eerily similar to Joe's in the way that she behaved, though to be fair Savina wasn't developed nearly as well.

In between all of this is the scripted development of other characters as well. Dazey for instance goes begins as a promiscuous dick even though he is pretty much the only normal person that you'll meet in this movie. His girlfriend Roslyn (Nadine Garner) is another of the main players in Wright's story and is tormented by an injury she sustained in a car accident where Dazey was driving. Roslyn is actually an object of affection for Joe, but the two never really hit it off. In between all of this loosely tied together lovey dovey stuff is a tale that clumsy weaves itself in regarding Joe's failing mental state.

As Metal Skin reaches the end of its story things start to get a little sloppy. Actually, scratch that; the entire ending is a mess. The movie moves along at a deliberately slow pace right up until the last few scenes which were seemingly tossed together. They don't carry a lot of weight and I was left scratching my head as the credits started to roll. The acting is superb though and is really the only leg that this movie has to stand on. There are some truly believable performances amidst the unbelievable plots.

The DVD:


Originally released in 1995 Metal Skin is presented with an anamorphic widescreen transfer. The image quality for the film is decent though there are a few problems with the presentation. There is quite a bit of speckle, grain, and quite a few spots where some compression artifacts are easily identifiable. Otherwise the video is very sharp with a great use of color amidst the grimy atmosphere of the film.


Two audio tracks are available on the disc though you're most likely going to dive into the 5.1 Dolby Digital offering. For the most part it makes decent use of the sound stage with the rear speakers kicking in for all of the finer points. Engines revving, tires screeching, people screaming, or even guns going off come across with poignant quality. The dialogue seemed a little more subdued when compared to the music and sound effects, but it still sounded better than the much more limited 2.0 selection. There are no subtitles present which was kind of annoying at times thanks to some very thick accents that were difficult to make out.


I have to say that I was impressed with the supplemental offerings for Metal Skin. For starters there was a soundtrack packed inside the case and even though it's not my particular brand of music, it was certainly a nice addition. On the smaller side of things there are some bios for the cast and crew, trailers for other Subversive releases, and a gallery of stills and promotional pictures from the movie.

On the meatier side of things is a making of documentary for Metal Skin called "Pedal to the Metal". It starts off as your typical fluff piece with commentary from the entire cast and eventually goes into talks about casting and auditions, characters, and some technical bits. It's kind of strange because it's a "making of" feature and yet there aren't really any behind the scenes shots. It's just the cast sitting around and talking in a semi interview format. Along the same lines is a commentary track for the film with Wright and some of the crew chiming in with their thoughts. It's a fairly entertaining commentary with a lot of information about the project and the director. Last but not least is Wright's debut film from 1998 Lover Boy. That's right, the entire hour long movie is included on the disc here, with an optional commentary by Wright as well.

Final Thoughts:

Metal Skin was an interesting movie with a unique atmosphere and true sense of grit. Melbourne has never looked so bleak with such a mismatched and confusing cast of characters who find themselves perpetually trapped in a downward spiral. You'll feel their emotion thanks to the wonderful acting, but the direction of the film and ending don't do the film justice. In the end I appreciated Wright's effort here but felt myself being kept at arms length due to parts of the script and otherwise unlikable characters. Fans of Wright's other works may appreciate Metal Skin more than I did and may want to check out the DVD for the included extra of Lover Boy.

Check out more of my reviews here. Head on over to my anime blog as well for random musings and reviews of anime, manga, and stuff from Japan!

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