The Odd Angry Shot Blu-ray Review
Written and directed by Tom Jeffrey
1979, Region A, 92 minutes, Not rated
Blu-ray released on August 13th, 2013
Graham Kennedy as Harry
John Hargreaves as Bung
John Jarratt as Bill
Bryan Brown as Rogers
Graeme Blundell as Dawson
Graham Sproule as Gunner
Ian Gilmour as Scott
John Allen as Lt. Golonka
The Odd Angry Shot offers a glimpse of life in the Australian Special Air Service during the Vietnam War. The tale begins with the arrival of soldiers on their first tour of duty, getting ready for action in the jungles of Southeast Asia. These young men quickly learn that the majority of their time will be spent fighting boredom rather than Viet Cong; their days filled with empty hours instead of adrenaline-fueled conflicts. A seasoned corporal named Harry keeps things light with a joke, but knows the seriousness of the situation. He advises the newbies not to wish too hard for enemy contact because it will find them soon enough.
There are countless sequences of bonding among the men as endless amounts of beer are consumed from one card game to the next. Life has become a bizarre summer camp filled with dirty jokes and anecdotes while waiting for the mail to deliver word from life back home. The biggest obstacle these guys face comes in the constant downpours of the torrential rains that seem to hit out of nowhere before ending as quickly as they came. The comfort of this routine is quickly smashed when a mortar attack rips through their camp, killing a few but wounding several and destroying any notion of tranquility.
The tedium soon returns and eats at their morale before the next burst of sporadic violence invades the camp. The cycle is made all the worse as it is quickly observed how their military tasks are meaningless and frequently end in death. The enemy is always just out of sight, but the real threat is discovered when the soldiers realize they are expendable here and forgotten at home. Despite their dwindling numbers, the men struggle to keep up their spirits until the next assault gives them something to do. The highlight of distraction comes in the form of a challenge from the Americans who offer the Australians a wager between their rival pet scorpion and spider respectively, that ends in a brawl between troops.
Based on William Magle's novel of the same name, The Odd Angry Shot plays as a series of vignettes that alternate between casual camaraderie and sudden carnage. The heroes struggle with the knowledge that they have lost all control over their lives as the war drags on and they grow more distant from their own sense of self. Tom Jeffrey's film focuses more on the personal dramas and comedic misadventures the soldiers get into rather than go for a balls-out action picture. He manages to strike a nice balance between the comedic downtime and the suspenseful moments that build to certain bloodshed. This character piece is more focused on watching these men change through circumstance rather than judge the politics behind the war or even the conflict itself.
The acting is pretty solid throughout, but the film would have benefited by making Harry (Graham Kennedy) the central character. The younger soldiers are fine, particularly future star Bryan Brown (F/X) as Rogers, but the episodic structure of the plot suffers without a strong protagonist. John Jarratt is solid as the naïve Bill, but the character arc is better suited to Harry, who has seen all of this before. There is also a pair of domestic sequences that bookend the picture, and while they drive home the point of character change, they are relatively unnecessary.
The 1970s were an impressive time for the Australian film industry as evidenced in the fantastic documentary Not Quite Hollywood. There have not been a large number of Vietnam War pictures coming out of this market, but The Odd Angry Shot is a solid effort that deserves a wider audience. While fans of more action-packed flicks may leave disappointed, it is a worthy entry in the sub-genre and this new release from Synapse Films makes for a prime opportunity to check it out.
Video and Audio:
The Odd Angry Shot is presented in the original 1.78:1 aspect ratio and looks quite nice for its age. There are a few instances of minor print damage, but the source materials are in surprisingly good condition with natural-looking flesh tones and decent black levels. Colors are strong, particularly during the sequence with smoke grenades. The image is much stronger than all previous versions, as one would expect, and fans will not be disappointed.
The default DTS-HD MA 2.0 track is the only audio option provided, but it does the job nicely. Dialogue remains clear and free from distraction even when overlapping from multiple characters. Accents can be a bit thick at times and no English subtitles are provided.
Kicking things off is a commentary track with writer/producer/director Tom Jeffrey joined by co-producer Sue Miliken and actor Graeme Blundell in a friendly conversation that is both relaxed and informative. The trio share many tales of the production that offer insight from various perspectives.
Next up is a short interview with stunt coordinator Buddy Joe Hooker titled Stunts Down Under (7 minutes) that focuses on the brawl between the Americans and Australians following the bug match. Hooker is a legend in the industry and his presence here is quite welcome but unfortunately limited.
Rounding things out is the original theatrical trailer that takes a unique approach of marketing the film through song.