A scalding, groggy poison-pen portrait of criminal working-class dead-endism, Rowan Woods’s The Boys is built to impress—what it judiciously avoids doing is the primary source of its bad-boy electricity. Based on what must’ve been a helluva-night-out play by Gordon Graham, the movie assumes pathologies are unknowable, and judgment beside the point. A true story, about three good-for-little Aussie brothers descending into capital crime, is in there somewhere, but the thrust is universal—we’ve all witnessed the blown fuses of uneducated masculine aggro. Shot in gritty neo-Cassavettes and un-structured as a commingled series of beery blackouts, The Boys leaves whole tragedies up to our imagination. Only the knowledge of very bad things to come is for certain.
At first blush, a page might seem to be taken out of the Mean Streets/Laws of Gravity hornbook here, but the dynamic is much scarier: instead of just one Johnny Boy, there are three, Brett (David Wenham), Glenn (John Polson), and Stevie (Anthony Hayes). The movie is one long living-room laze with beer, but with the brotherly feed-and-bite at full cry, there’s always blood in the water. The authentic sociopath, Brett, is just home from a year in stir for assault, and his wary homecoming is a quiet nightmare of avoided eye contact and predation; as his blowsy mom (Lynette Curran) prepares endless meals and excuses, Brett is trying to discover who stole his drug stash and how much his bleached hood-groupie Michelle (a sharp-eyed Toni Collette) dicked around on him while he was away. The family house is, of course, a purgatory for women: tough as artificial nails, Michelle barely gets out alive, while Nola (Anna Lise), Stevie’s terrified, pregnant girlfriend whose baby is nowhere to be seen after a “Six Months Later” title, has roadkill written all over her.
The Boys is a bolero of tension, and Wenham’s rip through the part of a boneheaded menace is largely why. Still, efforts to regain the paradisiacally grainy ’70s seem like frustrated nostalgia, and The Boys smacks of study—its realism is several steps short of chaos. Executed with remarkable restraint and spatial wisdom, Woods’s movie boils but doesn’t burn.
**Nursing milder tribal bonds, David Evans’s film of Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch manages to capture the book’s football-cult swoon (Hornby’s a master at giving voice to going-nowhere subculture obsession) without being particularly funny or involving. Colin Firth is the lazy English teacher – cum – soccer hooligan; the
lovely Ruth Gemmell is the uptight colleague he dates and knocks up. The entire matter of totemistic home-team dementia is roasted on a spit and then embraced for all its sorry pointlessness. (A flashback suite of crowd joy is scored to “Baba O’Reilly”; Pete Townsend’s catalogue fire sale is making the world safe for soundtracks.) Hornby’s script never tackles why Gemmell’s acid-tongued beauty would endure so much braying sports-fan crap, but then, it’s a common enough mystery.