Carl is a down-on-his-luck loser, who gets a job as a short-order cook in a roach infested Greek restaurant. When he falls for the beautiful Sophie, things seem to be looking up - but when he accidentally kills a co-worker, everything is put at risk
This first feature by writer/director Ruane is adapted from a novel by Boyd Oxlade (who he?) who co-scripted. It's impossible therefore to know whether the confused tone of the piece is the fault of the novel or the movie.
The increasingly admirable and attractive Sam Neill plays Carl, a well-meaning middle-aged loser whose squalid living conditions are the despair of his genteel, possessive mother (Lawley). He takes a job as a short-order cook in the cockroach-infested kitchen of a Greek-owned low-grade nightclub, where a psychopathic bruiser (Brkic, frightening) controls staff, customers and drug-dealing. Carl gets embroiled in a series of events ranging from a love affair with the gorgeous Greek girlfriend (Carides) of the club's owner to accidental murder. Things go from bad to worse before coming right in a whimsical happy ending.
Set amidst the blue-collar Greek community of Melbourne and as Australian as kangaroos and billy-cans, the movie purports to be a black comedy, but the humour is likely to escape many English viewers. Then, too, intruding into the lunacy is violence and racism of a serious and unpleasant nature which adds disturbingly to the ever-shifting balance of the piece.
Ruane certainly has some flair, and his cast (notably Clarke as Carl's only friend) is excellent. However, this bizarre mixture of Joe Ortonesque carryings-on (clock the scene in the graveyard and the scenes - some of the best in the movie - with mother), Monty Python, fairytale and social comment is too slow, too long and too muddled to satisfy.