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December 7, 2013

Movie Review: THE ODD ANGRY SHOT (1979)

Directed by Tom Jeffrey

Harry (Graham Young) is a young Australian pup who's signed up to become part of the SAS, part of his country's military participating in the Vietnam War. It's 1969, and his parents throw him a going away party. Peter, Paul and Mary's “Leaving On a Jet Plane” is spun on the record, and his has one last final shag with his Sheila. He's then off to war, and he hunkers down with his fellow Aussies. He deals with the constant rain, drunkenness – Australians were up to their tits in Foster's Lager at this point, even in the thick of battle and boredom of camp life. A much older soldier, Rogers (Bryan Brown) relates how he signed up after his career as a fine artist failed and his wife left him. He schools Harry on how unpopular the war has become, and how the people there will be people who welcome him home and tell him how proud they are of him …. which will last about a week after his return.

The Odd Angry Shot is a highly regarded Australian film that many hail as a classic. Dealing with Australia's contributions to the war effort,  American audiences, accustomed to high-octane actioners such as Saving Private Ryan (1992) have found Shot to be on the dull side. It's been given kudos for this very fact, by others who say it accurately reflects the military experience. Any serviceman will tell you that life on the front lines isn't all high-strung heroics. There's a lot of boredom waiting around for the next shoe to fall, they say. Add to this an adherence to military bureaucracy, many young men who sign up to serve their country are frustrated by their government's rules and regulations at every turn.

Based upon William L. Nagle's novel of the same name, The Odd Angry Shot is episodic in nature. The troops engage their fellow American troops to friendly games, guzzle beer, visit whorehouses and go on maneuvers where nothing happens. Death is everywhere apparent. Stray shellings claims the lives of their fellow soldiers in an arbitrary, ruthless fashion. The men keep a stiff upper lip, and go on to live another day and await their flight back to Australia.

Shot on a limited budget, the seams in the film are plainly visible. North Australia, which served as a shooting location looks nothing at all like Southeast Asia. There is also the problem of finding suitable actors to play Americans. Scenes involving the protagonists' encounter with black soldiers from the states suffers, as the performers fail to get the proper American accents right. Sets intended to represent Saigon have a pinch-feel to them, slightly off and unconvincing. While the awkwardness of these scenes don't detract from the engaging story, they definitely stick out in their artificiality to American viewers.

The Blu-Ray from Synapse includes a new High-Definition 1080p Transfer from Original Vault Materials; audio commentary featuring Producer/Director Tom Jeffrey, producer Sue Milliken and actor Graeme Blundell ; a featurette with American stuntman Buddy Joe Hooker, who tells of what it was like to work with an untrained Australian crew; and the film's original theatrical trailer.

The Odd Angry Shot can be recommended as a worthwhile Australian actioner that isn't afraid to step aside from the jingoistic expectations of the usual war film.

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