The Jammed (2007)
By: Captain Red Eye on November 30, 2010  | 
Roadshow | Region 4, PAL | 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced) | English DD 5.1 | 88 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
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Starring: Emma Lung, Veronica Sywak, Saskia Burmeister, Masa Yamaguchi, Todd MacDonald, Andrew S. Gilbert
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Upon its release in 2007 more than one reviewer, David Stratton and The Age's Jim Schembri among them, declared The Jammed to be the best Australian film of the year. It's certainly difficult to argue with that contention, and I would add my small voice to the chorus. The feature-length debut from writer/director Dee McLachlan, this taut, confronting thriller revolves around three hapless young women, each of whom has been brought to Australia under false pretences by people smugglers and put to work in an illegal brothel, where they must begin paying off the sizable 'debt' owed to their captors.

The Chinese mother of one of the girls sells everything she has and comes to Melbourne to search for her missing daughter Rubi (Hi-5's Sun Park, in a role that is something of a departure, to say the least). Reluctant to involve the police, Rubi's ma finds assistance in the unlikely guise of loveless insurance worker Ashley Hudson (Veronica Sywak), who despite her initial reluctance is quickly drawn into a nightmarish world of corruption, immorality and societal indifference.

Eventually Ashley manages to locate Rubi and two other lasses, Russian stunner Vanya (an unrecognisable Saskia Burmeister, best known for her turn in Hating Alison Ashley) and the beautiful, indomitable Crystal (Emma Lung, Triangle). Rescuing the girls from the snare of an outwardly respectable brothel keeper (Underbelly's Andrew S. Gilbert) and his vicious minions, however, is going be no easy task.

It's estimated that up to four million people, mainly young women, are trafficked around the world each year for sale into the sex trade. These status-less immigrants face deportation and a life of censure and poverty if they seek the assistance of authorities; abuse and exploitation if they do nothing.

This helpless position, referenced in the film's title, is ably and compelling captured by McLachlan. Based on actual court transcripts, The Jammed boasts a nimble, non-linear narrative structure, and expertly incorporates flashbacks and flash forwards into Hudson's frantic search for Rubi, Crystal's eventual detention at the hands of immigration officials and all the drudgery and anguish of the trio's life of imprisonment.

The performances are superb, lending an additional air of gravitas to an already harrowing tale. The ever-adroit Lung, who here proves particularly mesmerising, has since gone on to land roles in HBO's Entourage and the 2010 feature Crave, in which she starred alongside Edward Furlong and Ron Perlman, and Burmeister and Park likewise channel so much authentic emotion into their roles it feels at times as though one is watching as documentary.

The film largely refrains from moralising; neither does it suggest that all women who work in the sex industry are victims. It is simply a pertinent, first-rate portrayal of one of the shadiest and most troubling social problems of our time. Not easy viewing, but essential nonetheless.
Shot in hi-def for cheap, the anamorphically enhanced 1.78:1 widescreen transfer is largely faultless – it comes across a little dark and grainy in places, but this is hardly incongruous with the subject matter.
Both Dolby Digital 2.0 and 5.1 surround audio options are on offer; the 5.1 is particularly crisp and features plenty of dynamic range. In addition to its excellent cast the film boasts a resonant, haunting score courtesy of the director's brother Grant McLachlan, and the Making Of features music by acclaimed indie songstress Rosie Burgess.
Extra Features
A theatrical trailer, one deleted scene, one (very briefly) extended scene and a 10-minute Making Of. The lack of an audio commentary is an unfortunate omission and the behind the scenes footage has seemingly been hastily cobbled together, failing to provide any real insight into what was actually a fascinating and painstakingly-researched production.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
To the shame of the Australian film industry and the detriment of local cinemagoers, The Jammed struggled to find the requisite funding and distribution, receiving a pitifully limited theatrical release and failing to recoup its modest $600,000 budget, the bulk of which was provided by a single private investor. It was even rejected without explanation by organisers of the Melbourne International Film Festival (it eventually went on to screen at a number of other festivals, winning several awards). But it is most assuredly a film that deserves to be seen by as wide an audience as possible, and as both a social document and a stinging indictment of bureaucratic paralysis it is near-unparalleled in the canon of Australian cinema.

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