Film Review – The Merger

The Merger (M)

Directed by: Mark Grentell

Starring: Damian Callinan, Kate Mulvany, John Howard

Four stars

Review by Julian Wright

 

It is almost an involuntary reaction these days to cringe at the thought of a new Australian comedy.

While we tend to delve into the deprived and nail the dark, edgy dramas with aplomb – Animal Kingdom, Hounds of Love etc – it is our sense of humour that is apparently hard to pin point and capture for the big screen.

For every Australian cinema culture defining film such as Muriel’s Wedding, The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert and The Castle there are a string of cringe-worthy forgettable attempts such as Spin Out, Goddess, UnIndian and Mental.

It seems since Crocodile Dundee put us on the map with its rampant outback clichés, which seemed to delight everyone around the world in the 1980s, we have been stuck in a rut, torn between what we want to show and what we think people want to see.

The Merger takes a risky leap for a comedy, telling a story that mixes one of the country’s most popular and iconic sports with one of its most complex and controversial social and political issues, with the aim to still make us laugh.

Times are tough in the small rural town of Bodgy Creek with an ongoing drought, the closure of the mill putting many locals out of a job and the footy club on the verge of folding.

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To keep the Roosters playing in the local competition rather than merge with another club, former AFL player Troy Carrington (Damian Callinan), now dubbed “Town Killer”, is brought in to coach the team and get the club back on track.

But Troy’s presence is not welcome by many of the locals – his protests led to the mill closure – and his idea to recruit local refugees onto the ragtag team of footy players proves very unpopular with the narrow-minded residents.

On the surface this appears to be yet another underdog story with a predictable outcome that wraps up with a cute bow at the end when everyone learns a valuable life lesson like in one of those cheesy after-school specials.

And, look, it certainly has those elements, but what gives this film depth and invigorates the tropes, is the political aspect.

There is a lot going on thematically in this film; it is about much more than just footy and racism as it explores the idea of community, diversity, acceptance and having and maintaining a cultural identity.

The Merger has an undeniable charm and a heart the size of a football oval, which makes this potentially preachy story accessible and worthy of The Castle status.

Watch the trailer here.

 

One Response to “Film Review – The Merger”

  1. Thanks for the trailer & info Jules. It appeals to my Aussie humour so I’ll definitely check it out.

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