Cactus

Cactus

***1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Jasmine Yuen-Carrucan's debut feature is a lean and moody road-trip thriller, which though a little uneven, is nevertheless a deft piece of filmmaking.

The scoring by Nerida Tyson-Chew recalls John Carpenter, and it is clear the film is aiming for a retro feel, with its look and minimal scripting also harking back to movies from the Seventies and Eighties, such as Duel. The plot is slight, but intriguing and concerns a man (Travis McMahon) who, in a speedy set up, is seen bundling a kidnap victim into the boot of his car. Several hundred miles later and his 'package' is now sitting in the backseat, leading both men to develop an uneasy relationship, sparking confrontation and in a moment which brought back painful memories of my own torture at the hands of The Wiggles (which you can read about here), psychological trauma.

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The term 'cactus' is Aussie slang for something that is beyond help or right up the creek, and it isn't long before we discover that the kidnapper and his victim Eli (David Lyons) are both, in their own way, canoeing without a paddle.

Yuen-Carrucan uses the Australia landscape well, contrasting the wide open, lonely vistas sharply with the stuffy, sweaty confines of the kidnapper's ageing Ford car. Shane Jacobson (Kenny) as a truck driver and Bryan Brown as a small-town sheriff, give a shine to their cameos, which would otherwise have felt a lot more underwritten, while in the central roles McMahon and Lyons show actions can speak louder than words.

Once it passes the hour point, although Yuen-Carrucan's camerawork remains slick, the scripting slumps a little, with one philosophical debate too many between the men in the car, and an unnecessary coda that is too neat and feels over-explanatory after the minimalism that has preceded it. Still, she has a wealth of camera experience working on films as diverse as Mongol and Kill Bill and while this is her first shot at scripting, with a little more practice in that department, she could easily become a filmmaking force to be reckoned with.

Reviewed on: 18 Feb 2009
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Cactus packshot
A kidnapper takes his payload cross country into the Aussie outback.

Director: Jasmine Yuen-Carrucan

Writer: Jasmine Yuen-Carrucan

Starring: Travis McMahon, David Lyons, Bryan Brown, Shane Jacobson

Year: 2008

Country: Australia

Festivals:

Australia 2009

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