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Odd Angry Shot, The

Synapse Films // Unrated // August 13, 2013 // Region 0
List Price: $24.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted August 13, 2013 | E-mail the Author
"I've seen it all before. First of all, they start to argue with one another...y'know, a few 'piss off's and 'get stuffed's, and nobody really takes any notice. Then comes stage two, when all this 'camaraderie' and esprit bullshit just goes. Then
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comes stage three when they start to fight with one another and the morale goes down. Once the morale goes, the sick parades start to get longer and the casualties start to mount up and all we want to do is get home and get the bloody job over and done with so we don't take any more risks...'cause there's no reason to."

Most every film set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War explores the conflict from an American perspective. That's perfectly understandable, seeing as how the U.S. held far and away the greatest foreign presence in the conflict. Still, it shouldn't be forgotten that a number of other nations lent their support to the U.S. and South Vietnam. Released in 1979, The Odd Angry Shot was the first film to offer a look at the Vietnam War through the eyes of Australian special forces.

In fact, that boots-on-the-ground perspective is ultimately what The Odd Angry Shot is about. It's not an allegory. It doesn't build to any sort of epic climax where Australian soldiers claimed their greatest victory. It doesn't glorify war, nor is it an hour and a half of unrelenting misery. Though the film makes its points about the futility of war very clear, nearly to the point of having Graham Kennedy sermonize about it, I still never felt as if The Odd Angry Shot was bludgeoning me over the head with its sharp opinions. It's a unique and deeply compelling slice of life throughout one group's tour of duty. The film isn't about a hero's journey or hitting the right action beats; it's about survival.

Based on the book by William Nagle, The Odd Angry Shot delves into most every facet of these soldiers' stint in Vietnam. There's the sharp contrast between their initial cockiness and even their luxurious flight into Vietnam with the tedium that quickly sinks in once they arrive. In between sudden, violent bursts of rain, they initially just seem to laze around their rickety camp and pass the time. They're not skulking through the jungle; they're guzzling down gallons of Foster's, playing cards, and passing around titty mags. ...and then there's that first mortar strike.

I'm intrigued by how unflinchingly graphic The Odd Angry Shot will be one moment about the horrors of war, and then that'll be followed up by the soldiers cracking wise or sitting around, listless and bored. Impressively enough, that's not at all jarring tonally; in fact, that disparity is entirely the point. Its view of war from the soldiers' perspective is
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alternately brutal and tedious. Their camaraderie and distinct senses of humor are the only things that really get them through it. Really, there are very few sequences with any Viet Cong. The VC's assaults either take place from afar -- making the conflict rightly feel more impersonal and inescapable -- or are the handiwork of a small cluster of enemy soldiers. In what other Vietnam movie would the largest attack be a drunken brawl between American and Australian soldiers over a tarantula-vs.-scorpion cage match? The Viet Cong are neither demonized nor meant to be understood. The Odd Angry Shot is less fascinated by size or scale than it is by the people at the heart of it. That forms the core of the film's anti-war message: these soldiers are just men doing a job. There's no honor to be had in what they're doing. They're not under any illusions -- not for long, anyway -- that their risks and sacrifices will amount to any difference in the world at large. Their weary corporal (Graham Kennedy) notes that the children of the Best and Brightest aren't in the thick of it alongside them. Still, this is what they signed up for, and this is what they'll have to endure.

Despite being shot on a relative shoestring, The Odd Angry Shot is a spectacularly well-crafted film. An enormous effort was clearly invested in research and shaping a sense of verisimilitude. The involvement of Australia's military is apparent, and the film's ensemble cast -- among them Graham Kennedy, Bryan Brown, John Hargreaves, John Jarratt, Graeme Blundell, and Ian Gilmour -- come across to my uninformed eye as actual soldiers rather than actors playing dress-up. They're each infused with distinct, well-rendered personalities as well. Though there is a decent amount of action and some visceral, grisly effects work, The Odd Angry Shot never loses sight of the humanity that forms the underpinning of the film. Its lean runtime and a structure that plays more like a series of vignettes ensure that there's always something unique or unexpected around the next bend. It deftly leaps from one tone to another, with one sequence that leaves me smirking and the next that's a silent, unnervingly intense approach towards a VC staging camp. At no point does The Odd Angry Shot feel like a war movie I've seen before. Perhaps that's in part because it's remained unseen for so long on these shores. Synapse Films has rescued The Odd Angry Shot from obscurity with a first-rate release on Blu-ray, and a film this unique and compelling certainly deserves it. Highly Recommended.

I've devoured enough of Synapse Films' DVDs and Blu-ray releases over the years to always expect the best from them. I went into The Odd Angry Shot with my usual dizzingly
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high expectations, and they still still caught me completely off-guard by how drop-dead gorgeous this presentation is. Synapse's work here is breathtakingly filmic, showing no signs of overzealous filtering or manipulation. The Odd Angry Shot is sharp and dazzingly detailed, easily ranking among the most exceptional releases of a late '70s film on Blu-ray. I'm impressed by how robust its colors are as well, especially the piercingly blue skies. As ever for Synapse, the AVC encode here is flawless; I was unable to spot any sputters or stutters in the authoring. There is some light speckling along with a handful of other blink-and-you'll-miss-it anomalies, but none of that proved to be much of a distraction, and it certainly doesn't dim my enthusiasm for such a remarkable presentation on Blu-ray.

The Odd Angry Shot arrives on a single layer Blu-ray disc at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1.

The Odd Angry Shot's DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack -- offered here in two-channel mono -- proves to be quite a strong showing as well. A slight hiss is noticeable when the film first starts, but it's mild enough to be easily shrugged off, and I don't notice it at all once the movie proper is underway. Key sound effects and the score in particular are impressively full-bodied. The dialogue stems show their age somewhat but not to any greater extent than expected, and the line readings are balanced flawlessly in the mix. No dropouts, pops, or clicks ever threaten to distract. Another in a very long line of strong showings by Synapse.

The only other audio option is a commentary track which, by the way, is also presented in 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio. More on that below.

  • Audio Commentary: The Odd Angry Shot's commentary track features producer/production manager Sue Milliken,
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    screenwriter/director/producer Tom Jeffrey, and actor/key grip Graeme Blundell. It's a rewarding and endlessly entertaining listen, as the three of them lob out one terrific story after another about this very ambitious, very low-budget production. Among the highlights are shooting sanitized versions of certain sequences with television in mind, one ridiculous story after another about the Amazing Technicolor John Hargreaves, the involvement of the Australian military in the production, some of the clever ways they sidestepped the limitations of a $600K budget and Australian work visa requirements, and how some critics at the time were hostile towards the film for not being even more overtly anti-war.

  • Stunts Down Under (7 min.; HD): A decent sized chunk of the commentary is devoted to Buddy Joe Hooker's work on The Odd Angry Shot, and the legendary stuntman scores an interview of his own as well. Hooker speaks very briefly about getting his start in the industry as a child actor and how, as a teenager, he followed in his father's footsteps by moving into stuntwork. The rest of the brief conversation is devoted to The Odd Angry Shot, which has a fairly epic brawl between American and Australian soldiers that features Hooker's choreography and second unit direction. As Hooker's work was limited to that single sequence and a week on the set, don't expect a sprawling variety of topics on the docket, but it's a terrific interview and is well worth a look.

  • Trailer (3 min.; HD): Last up is a high-def theatrical trailer.

The Odd Angry Shot is an all-region disc and comes packaged with reversible cover art.

The Final Word
The Odd Angry Shot explores the Vietnam War from a perspective with which I was previously unfamiliar. This character-driven slice of life about Australian soldiers embroiled in the conflict bucks most every one of the usual conventions and remains remarkably compelling more than three decades later. The Odd Angry Shot is a film well worth discovering on Blu-ray, especially with a presentation this surreally gorgeous. Highly Recommended.
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