Metal Skin (1994)

Metal SkinAustralian director Geoffrey Wright followed up his successful 1992 film Romper Stomper (also known as the film that introduced the world to Russell Crowe) with Metal Skin, his ode to Mad Max. Aden Young stars as Joe, a shy man who has just started employment at a local supermarket. There he meets the local hunk Dazey (Ben Mendelsohn) and the local goth Savina (Tara Morice). Almost instantly, Joe realizes that those two aren’t regular people, first encountering them in uncomfortable situations: he walks in on Dazey having sex in the tea room and sees Savina catching a rat with her bare hands. But Joe is instantly attracted to them.

Joe lives in a dump and he has to take care of his brain-damaged alcoholic father (Petru Gheorghiu). While doing laundry at the local Laundromat, Joe meets Roslyn (Nadine Garner), Dazey’s girlfriend, and formally introduces himself to Dazey. They chat and Joe is embarrassed when his father walks in wearing nothing but a shirt on. This is the first real instance where we see how dysfunctional Joe’s family is. The regularity of dysfunctional families is a recurring theme as is also shown with Savine’s family. Savine practices Satan worship while screaming at her mom and cursing at her brother. We find that the rat she caught is for a ritual involving her attempt to use a spell on Dazey, whom she’s had a crush on since high school.

At first, I thought the Satan worship was completely random in its inclusion to the film, but later I realized that Savine exists on a different plane than the rest of society. All of the characters do. She uses her magic to get Dazey to have sex with her, but considering how promiscuous he is I don’t know if it was his horniness or her magic as the main cause. Joe catches them in bed and becomes enraged because he has a crush on her. The film then meanders into a love triangle amplified by much teenage turmoil (although they’re not really teenagers) behind the backdrop of Joe and Dazey’s love for driving cars.

While Metal Skin is marketed as an action movie in the same vein as Mad Max, its strength lies in the relationships between the four main characters. It surprisingly has very little driving scenes — although there is an important scene involving illegal drag racing. Joe’s spirit and confidence comes from his car, which he’s modified from scratch using makeshift car parts. He enters a race, but loses to one of Dazey’s enemies. With his car failing on him, he begins a slow descent into madness. His whole life falls apart, but his friends have experienced all that before and don’t notice it.

The relationship between the main characters shows us how connected we can be to one another. These four have really messed up lives, but they try to make due with what they can. Maybe Joe and Dazey’s love for cars is because they have a lingering dream that they can one day drive away from all of their problems. Savine practices magic so that she can fill her world with false illusions instead of living the real thing.

Wright directs Metal Skin with fast editing and short shots in order to visualize the characters’ manic energy. He uses surrealism to show how disenchanted the characters feel when they lose this energy. Without their illusions, they become despondent and suicidal. With their illusions, they are despondent and nihilistic — the depression isn’t too far behind.

Special Features:

There is an audio commentary featuring the cast and crew, a still gallery and trailers of other Subversive Cinema films. There is a “The Making Of” featurette with new interviews from the cast and crew. They talk about how much they liked the script, character development and how much they liked the final product.

Geoffrey Wright’s first short film Lover Boy starring Noah Taylor and Gillian Jones is also included. Mick (Taylor) stars as a teenager, who is seduced by his mom’s friend, Sally (Jones). They develop a relationship, but Sally has issues with her boyfriend while Mick has issues with his “loser” friends. They find solace in each other, but the huge age difference disputes the validity of their love. Since he is only sixteen, how does he know it’s love and not just an obsession? Since she is forty-two, how does she know it’s love and not just a mid-life crisis? It’s a wonderful short film.

Also included in this special edition is a CD soundtrack and three title poster cards.

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