A thematic sequel of sorts to Mel Gibson’s film debut, the film definitely holds its own in the world of Ozploitation.
Ross Cameron is a young fellow who doesn’t look for trouble, but trouble always comes his way. During a party at a friend’s house, a local motorcycle gang decide to wreak havoc and end up on sitting on Ross’s car. Ross, not one to take things lightly, is challenged to a race by one of the gang members, Skunk. As Ross and Skunk race, Skunk attempts to play dirty by running Ross off the road. However, Ross gets the upper hand when he forces Skunk to fall off his bike after forcing him off. The police threaten Ross that if Skunk, who is now comatose, dies, he will be charged with second degree murder.
After thinking things through and realizing what is at stake, and another confrontation with the gang, who now threaten to kill him if Skunk dies, Ross decides to go to the beach town of Wunderra. Living there is Robbie Atkins, an old friend of Ross’s mom who knew his father. Robbie doubles his home as a surf shop and lives with Aborigine-born Davie. Ross once again finds trouble when he gets involved with Helen, a young woman married to Neville, who spends his time berating everyone especially when he is drinking. When Ross eventually decides to cut ties with Helen after dealing with enough trouble, he forms a bond with Robbie and Davie, who also find trouble due to a corrupt cop who hates surfers. That soon becomes the least of Ross’s problems when he discovers the motorcycle gang have found him and want revenge.
In 1977, Australian filmmaker and actor Phil Avalon made the film Summer City, which revolved around the turbulent lives of four surfer friends who find their high-praising life turned upside down. The film’s notoriety is that it marked the film debut of Mel Gibson. Fast forward a decade later and Avalon came up with the story and produced this thematic sequel that is quite a fun Ozploitation film.
Peter Phelps makes quite an introduction in the film, in a sequence that looks like something that could come out of a dance movie. It makes you wonder what you are in store for, but we are talking Ozploitation, so anything is possible. Here, he does well as Ross, who for some reason is attracted to trouble and finds it at every corner in the film. From his main rivalry with the motorcycle gang, who appear sporadically just to remind the viewer that they are still there to his conflict with his stepfather, who disapproves of his wife’s years long friendship with surfer Robbie and then his accidental meddling in a domestic dispute between Helen and Neville. It is like Ross cannot catch a break, but only in spurts when he is surfing and on the beach.
Vince Martin makes for a good mentor to Ross as Robbie, a free spirited surfer who has his own demons in terms of his past with Caroline and Ross’s birth father as well as having his own issues dealing with a dirty local cop who because of his hatred for surfers, attempts to set Robbie up by planting drugs. Another breakout performance is the debut of the late David Ngoombujara as Davie, Robbie’s buddy who also acts as a moral mentor to Ross. With these two, Ross finally finds himself in a place he feels comfortable.
The single-named Abigail makes the most of her screen time as Helen, a woman who constantly feels unappreciated and berated by her drunk husband Neville. While she constantly fights with him, she doesn’t leave because according to her, it’s more complicated than one would think. The only problem? We never find out why. Perhaps the excuses is just a set up for Ross, who has a brief kissing scene with Helen, to realize that he doesn’t need any more trouble. The real trouble comes in the motorcycle gang, notably, the leader Sampson, played with tenacity and madness by Shane Connor. The movie does take a predictable turn in the finale but it is not long running and ends quite in perfect timing for its 87-minute running time.
Breaking Loose is a fun Ozploitation action-drama about one man’s troubles and his hopes to escape the drama that plagues his life, driven by some pretty good performances by Peter Phelps and Vince Martin.
WFG RATING: B
An Avalon Films production. Director: Rod Hay. Producer: Phil Avalon. Writer: Rod Hay; story by Phil Avalon. Cinematography: Richard Michalak. Editing: Ted Otton.
Cast: Peter Phelps, Vince Martin, Abigail, David Ngoombujarra, Shane Connor, Angela Kennedy, John Clayton, Sharon Tamlyn, Gary Waddell, Carlo Bianchino, Sandra Lee Paterson, Tom Richard, Kristoffer Greaves.