1%

October 12, 2018
Paddo has a Shakespearean moment at the clubhouse

On first impressions one wouldn’t imagine Matt Nable to be the literary type. Covered in tattoos, muscle-bound, mo-hawked, and prone to a bit of ultra-violence, Nable, who plays bikie leader, Knuck, in Stephen McCallum’s 1%, is also responsible for the screenplay. Although most of the dialogue is a stream of expletives, it’s more convincing than the lame scripts that disgrace so many Australian movies.

A case in point was the previous film I’d watched: Russell Mulcahy’s In Like Flynn – a preposterous ‘bio pic’ of the young Errol Flynn that makes The Adventures of Biggles seem like Greek tragedy. The acting was fashioned from damp cardboard, but given such a script one can only feel sorry for the poor saps.

Mulcahy’s entire production was an attempt to out-swashbuckle the golden age of Hollywood swashbuckling, with predictable results. What comes across as quaintly nostalgic in grainy black-and-white becomes an embarrassing cartoon in crisp, contemporary colour. The film gave me a renewed appreciation of Steven Spielberg, who has managed to do this stuff with a little style.

1% is a superior proposition, although I might have felt less indulgent if I’d watched something half-decent beforehand. Love it ot loathe it, McCallum’s debut feature is not destined to become a family favourite. It’s a story of intrigue, treachery and restribution wthin a bikie gang called the Copperheads. Knuck, the leader, is about to return from a stint in pentridge. While he’s been away, the club has been capably managed by Paddo (Ryan Corr), supported by his ambitious girlfriend, Katrina (Abbey Lee).

The source of every problem seems to lie with Paddo’s idiot brother, Skink (Josh McConville), who has stolen some heroin from another bunch of ugly mugs. Their leader is Sugar (Aaron Pedersen), who views this as a misdemeanour punishable by death. (As we keep hearing nowadays sugar is a real killer). Sugar’s proposition is that Paddo go into business with him, turning over a percentage of hs gang’s income in return for money laundering services. Otherwise, Skink gets the chop.

Business-minded Paddo can actually see the benefits in this arrangement, but the deal coincides with the return of the boss, and Knuck has other ideas. He doesn’t even like the new range of fashion hoodies with which Paddo has outfitted the boys.

Knuck’s tough-talking but loyal girlfriend, Hayley (Simone Kessell), has been keeping the flame alive but is due to be disappointed. Knuck’s new hobby is violent homosexual intercourse with unwilling young men – a skill he seems to have acquired in prison.

With both Knuck and Paddo protecting their own dirty secrets, and Katrina and Hayley competing for the best Lady Macbeth impersonation, the stage – or rather shed – is set for a confrontation of Shakespearian proportions.

I’m choosing my adjectives carefully because the Shakespearian aspect of this tale could hardly be more obvious. There is, however, a qualitative gap between Macbeth’s escapades in old Scotland, and McCallum’s Oz bikers. There’s a good deal of melodrama to be squeezed out of the story, but the plot remains predictable, while the characters struggle to be more than ‘types’.

The brotherly love theme between Paddo and Skink is hardly more convincing than the idea of Knuck as Paddo’s surrogate father and mentor. To be fair to both Corr and Nabel, any shades of complexity to be found in this film are due to their committed performances.

The real question mark lies over Katrina, and to a lesser extent, Hayley, who are portrayed as classic scheming bitches from a B movie. In this day and age such sexual stereotyping isn’t merely old hat, it risks offending a large part of the audience.

It would have been much more acceptable had McCallum set out to make a real B movie with all the exploitataive trimmings. Instead, he has artistic aspirations – which doesn’t raise the story to a higher plane, so much as expose its shortcomings. Those viewers who like their movies packed with sex, violence and car chases will be disappointed, but so will those who might have hoped for a new, insightful approach to the bikie genre. The standard to beat would probably be Stone (1974), which was a shameless B movie, now seen by many as a classic. Stone is such a 70s time capsule it defies close comparison, but it was a lot more fun than 1%, in which hardly anyone ever seems to be riding a motorbike.

In purely sociological terms 1% doesn’t do much for the image of the humble bikie, who is portrayed (as usual!) as a violent criminal for whom murder is all in day’s work. I’m sure there are plenty with hearts of gold who just like hooning around on bikes and hanging out with their mates at some heavily fortified clubhouse. With strippers.

What we really need is a movie that shows us a new breed of multicultural, ecologically-aware, feminist bikies who run yoga workshops, and write letters to politicians on subjects of community concern. It may not get many viewers but such a project would be an absolute certainty to score major funding from Australia’s film finance organisations.

1%
Directed by Stephen McCallum
Written by Matt Nable
Starring Ryan Corr, Abbey Lee, Matt Nable, Simone Kessell, Josh McConville, Aaron Pedersen, Eddie Baroo
Australia, rated MA 15+, 92 mins

Published in the Australian Financial Review, 13 October, 2018