Redball (1999)
By: Devon B. on April 17, 2006  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Palace Films (Australia). All Regions, PAL. 1.85:1 (Non-anamorphic). English DD 5.1. 84 Minutes
The Movie
Director: Jon Hewitt
Starring: Belinda McClory, John Brumpton, Frank Magree, Peter Docker, Anthea Davis, Neil Pigot, Damien Richardson, James Young
Screenplay: Jon Hewitt
Country: Australia
The Redball DVD begins with an unskippable 'You wouldn't steal a…' anti-piracy ad. I hate these ads, and making them unskippable is very annoying. When the ads are updated to include some of the more longstanding copyright infringements like 'You wouldn't tape a movie off TV,' or 'You wouldn't make a tape of a CD for a friend,' maybe then I'll take them seriously.

Anyway, the film proper begins with a female detective being called out on a 'redball' child murder case. A redball case is one that puts the officers under a lot of pressure and that everyone will want solved ASAP. Our heroine arrives at the crime scene to find that the modus operandi is reminiscent of another case she's familiar with. The prior case has had a particularly harsh effect on our heroine, so it's not exactly smooth sailing. Actually, there's no sailing, but she does take a bath at one point, and spin a glass in the tub. Most of the movie is actually about police corruption and dishonesty on the force, but the lead story is as described above.

Redball is very low budget, but is competently directed and – mostly – well acted. In fact, if it weren't for being shot-on-video and having a poor sound mix, Redball would seem much higher budget than it is. The jump cuts used to create a kinetic energy are mostly good, though at times they get distracting and seem out of place.

Unfortunately, despite being well done in most respects, especially considering budget limitations, Redball isn't a movie I can strongly recommend. The film comes off like a Bad Lieutenant wannabe as it bogs itself down in banal police corruption sub-plots. I get that little bits tie into the main story, but more often than not, the film is just presenting a series of naughty piggy vignettes. This is too bad, because the main story is pretty bleak, and could've made for a much more impacting film if it had remained the prime focus. I do like that all the police are presented as corrupt, with nary a Serpico to be found, but most of the film is just a series of the normal stitch ups. One of the major 'shocking' scenes of police corruption lacks believability, despite being based on real events, as director/writer Jon Hewitt has tried to amp up the stakes a bit from the real-life scenario. This scene was presumably meant to trigger an emotional response, but my response was, 'That's just so stupid.'

On the plus side though, there is a nice, odd sense of humour running throughout the film, particularly in the blackly funny floater gag. But the biggest plus of all is the prominent use of The Meanies' 'Ton of Bricks.' The Meanies are an awesome band. I wish they'd play more live. I got to see them when I first moved to Australia, and they were great! They were playing a wrestling match, but it was still cool. So, if you're in The Meanies and reading this PLAY MORE GIGS!!
Redball is presented at 1.85:1 in a 4:3 transfer. There are frequent video glitches, predominantly the electronic lines that pop up after a VHS has been watched a lot or viewed on a machine with dirty heads. These glitches also occur on the black bars about the film's matte, so it seems like a heavily used VHS master was used for the transfer. The glitches were very distracting. There is also video grain readily apparent. The film is shot-on-video, which regrettably means it wouldn't look out of place following this week's episode(s) of The Bill.
The audio is a 5.1 Dolby track. It would be clear, but it suffers from 's' hisses, which is really distracting. Dialogue distorts at times, and overall the track can be a bit quiet.
Extra Features
The DVD sleeve assigns all the extras a number, so I guess I'll stick with that. Number 1: An audio commentary with various people involved in the production. The track is a cut together one. It ads an interesting aspect to the floater gag, and reveals that some of the editing jumps were to hide cameos by the boom mic. The track provides additional insight into the film, which I guess is what a good commentary should do. Number 2: 90 Minute Film School, which is another audio track, this time with just the director going over production aspects of the film. It's a good track for aspiring filmmakers, but should really be called '84 Minute Film School.' Number 3: Australian theatrical trailer, which is presented full frame and wisely has The Meanies song. Number 4: Japanese trailer, which is again presented full frame. Number 5: A photo gallery. Number 6: Original chapter selection. WOW! Number 7: Filmographies for Hewitt and stars Belinda McClory and John Brumpton. For some reason, despite desperately attempting to boost the extras list by including chapter selection, the other trailers for more Palace films are not mentioned. But they are there on the disc.
The Verdict
Redball is an odd film because I want to be generous given the low budget. Ultimately, though, it's too slick to say, 'Oh, the filmmakers just didn't know better.' Redball was clearly helmed by people who knew what they were doing. The problems with the film are entirely around the lack of focus on the main story, which is the most important element of any film like this. It's too bad that the DVD also mirrors this mistake of slacking on the most important element by presenting the film with an inferior transfer.
Movie Score
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