Retro Review: Idiot Box

Ben Mendelsohn and Jeremy Sims in Idiot Box.

Directed by David Caesar
Written by David Caesar
Starring Ben Mendelsohn, Jeremy Sims, John Polson and Graeme Blundell

Written by Gavin Bond

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While Aussie actors the likes of Margot Robbie and Chris Hemsworth have conquered Hollywood, it seems, virtually overnight, one shouldn’t forget those Australian thesps who have paved the way for the new breed of down under movie star and who have, themselves, forged an international career as a character actor or supporting star.

Melbourne born Ben Mendelshon first arrived on the domestic film landscape in his teens, in John Duigan’s wonderful 1987 coming-of-age yarn The Year My Voice Broke, and is now a prolific Hollywood scenery chewing baddie in recent blockbusters like Captain Marvel, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Ready Player One and Robin Hood.

In-between times, Mendelshon churned out a whole series of leading man roles as a likeable ocker larrikin in homegrown 80/90’s films The Big Steal, Cosi, Metal Skin and Mullet. 

One of his most overlooked flicks is David Caesar’s super slick and boldly irreverent 1996 heist flick and slice-of-life crime yarn, Idiot Box.

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Mendelshon is in top form as hot headed suburban slacker Kev who spends his time drinking, collecting his dole cheque and seeking confrontation.

His best mate is Mick (an equally charismatic Jeremy Sims) and the two tight t-shirt wearing yobbos decide to relieve their boredom by pulling off a brazen bank heist.

Idiot Box then follows thee dimwitted duo’s foray into crime and their daily shenanigans as they hang out the local pub, drive through liquor store while facing off with other local hoods.

The main appeal of this highly original romp is David Caesar’s frantic pacing, inventive camera angels and visuals and the film’s undeniable energy.

Writer/director Caesar also doesn’t pull any punches with his rapid fire, crude and rude dialogue and warts n all depiction of sex and violence.

While the two protagonists are deeply flawed characters, Mendelshon’s physical performance and Sims’ charm, ensure their characters are engaging, and they are ably supported by John Polson as idiotic henchman Jonah and the evergreen Graeme Blundell as a laconic Detective.

Idiot Box may well be guilty of going a bit implausibly over the top in its blood soaked finale, but this skillfully helmed and unashamedly ocker comic crime romp is both entertaining and dazzling and a worthy precursor to Australian big screen crime classics Getting’ Square, The Boys, Snowtown and Animal Kingdom.


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