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In the 70s two brothers battle killer waves, conservative society and ruthless bikers to kick-start the modern surf industry.
For more about Drift and the Drift Blu-ray release, see Drift Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on September 16, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Sam Worthington, Lesley-Ann Brandt, Xavier Samuel, Robyn Malcolm, Myles Pollard
Directors: Ben Nott, Morgan O'Neill
» See full cast & crew
Drift Blu-ray Review
Endless Summer—Aussie Style.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, September 16, 2013
It's obviously no mere coincidence that Drift ends with a fantastic song called "Endless Summer" by the Australian indie band The Jezabels playing over the credits, for this film is in many ways a dramatized, Aussie accented version of the long ago 1966 documentary by Bruce Brown. Though advertised as having been based on a true story, the film is frankly a fairly rote rehash of every David(s) versus Goliath(s) story you've seen, albeit this time in an incredibly picturesque setting, with a somewhat unusual focus, and with a kind of slacker mentality that is either intentionally or otherwise an ironic counterpoint to its tale of two surfing brothers who manage to make good—almost in spite of themselves. The film opens with a longish black and white prelude which introduces us to the three principal players in the Kelly family, mother Kat (Robyn Malcolm) and her two rambunctious sons Andy (played by Sean Keenan in the prologue and Myles Pollard for the bulk of the film) and Jimmy (Kai Arbuckle as a kid and Xavier Samuel as the big kid). Kat is seen purloining car keys from her sleeping husband, and one gets the intimation without a word being spoken that she is preparing an escape from an abusive relationship. She and the boys barely manage to get out alive (or at least uninjured), and when the boys beg her to stay at a gorgeous seaside community, and her car seems to join in on the request by refusing to start, the family finds itself ensconced in a seemingly idyllic world meant for surf fanatics. Unfortunately, things like school get in the way, and the boys' tendency to get involved in fist fights makes them an object of derision. When they try to relax by surfing, a near tragedy almost takes Andy's life, and injures him to the point where surfing won't come easily anymore. Suddenly, Jimmy's natural athleticism comes to the fore, especially after the boys hook up with Gus (Harrison Buckland-Crook in the prologue, Aaron Glenane later), a surfboard repairer who convinces them to chop off part of Andy's now damaged board to make a shorter version which Jimmy soon realizes gives him less drag and more mobility.
Once the prologue ends, with a nicely done segue to color in the middle of Jimmy navigating a curl, we see the boys probably around ten or so years older. Andy has resigned himself to working in a local lumberyard, while Kat attempts to bring in a few bucks as a work for hire seamstress. Jimmy seems to have lost his way, though. While he's still an amazing surfer, he's become something of a non-juvenile delinquent, involved in a series of illegal activities that soon start to spill out into several simultaneously unfolding subplots. One of these is his dealings with an almost cartoonish biker gang which also is a drug running operation, and this is frankly one of the places where Drift indeed drifts precariously close to self-parody, with a glaring, menacing performance by Steve Bastoni as Miller, the leader of the gang, who seems poised to twirl his mustache, Snidely Whiplash style, if only he had one.
The film also introduces Sam Worthington as J.B. , a longhair hippie type who tools around Australia in his Ken Kesey- esque psychedelically painted bus (which bears the moniker "Nowhere Fast"), as well as Lesley-Ann Brandt as Lani, a beautiful young émigré from Hawaii whose father is a friend of J.B.'s and who has requested that the elder man let Lani accompany him on his travels, as he feels it's a better choice for her than some of the Hawaiian bad boys with whom she's been hanging out (some may feel this is some questionable parenting, considering J.B.'s penchant for dope smoking and shotgun wielding). It turns out J.B. is a famous though spectacularly unambitious surf photographer who coasts by on the dollars his pictures bring into him. Already one can feel scenarist Morgan O'Neill (who also co- directed) lining up the dominoes to fall in a predictable pattern as the film unfolds. We have the villain (Miller) and his connection to the focal family (along with two other tangential sets of villains, bankers who won't lend the family money to start their business, and cops who keep hassling the family, thinking their surf shop is a front for illicit drug activity), we have Jimmy's penchant for bad behavior tempered by his athletic ability, we have a family struggling to make ends meet and we have a famous surf photographer waiting in the wings to act as a virtual Deus ex Machina when things start to get completely out of hand.
Despite the completely predictable arc of Drift (which also includes a love affair between Andy and Lani), the film is actually rather compelling, documenting an epochal era in the history of the sport of surfing, when both short boards and wetsuits became the norm. While the historical aspect of the film is probably tangential to its actual impact, it centers the film in a definite time and place and gives it at least a hint of verisimilitude. Some of the subplots are frankly ridiculous (the drug angle, while no doubt "correct" from a historical perspective, is just too melodramatic to ever work effectively, especially once the grown up Gus goes off the deep end), but the film balances these with some spectacularly scenic vistas that present Australia in a very appealing light.
Drift sometimes suffers from the same issues that beset other relatively recent surfing outings like Blue Crush or Blue Crush 2, namely that the dramatic goings on are simply no match for the stunning scenery and viscerally exciting surfing footage. In this regard, Drift actually does marginally better than either of those aforementioned outings, which may be either damning with faint praise or setting the bar so low that any reasonable effort could top it. The film is graced by some decent performances (though I personally couldn't stop staring at Worthington's bizarre mullet-esque hairstyle), and its Australian setting and concrete time placement at least give it something a bit unusual to play with. If the plot here is awfully mechanical, there's at least some incredibly gorgeous scenery to help pass the time.
Drift Blu-ray, Video Quality
Drift is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Lionsgate Films with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.35:1. This is another digitally shot feature that utilized both Arri and Red systems (according to the IMDb), but perhaps ironically, the sharpest looking part of this film is arguably the long black and white prologue. While colors are astoundingly varied and really beautifully saturated once the black and white sequence comes to a close, the image here is often slightly soft. That is counteracted by a major uptick in sharpness and level of detail in some of the astounding surf footage, where seemingly every droplet of water is visible as a separate entity and at times it's even relatively easy to spot that a stunt double is standing (surfing?) in for Xavier Samuel. The film has not been aggressively color graded (aside from the obviously desaturated opening sequence), and a very natural palette presents the stunning vistas of Australia's western coast in all their native beauty, something that also provides some really amazing depth of field in a number of shots that look out toward an endless horizon.
Drift Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Drift's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is wonderfully immersive from virtually the first moments of the film, when the lap of waves and general sounds of a swirling ocean echo through the surround channels. All of the surfing sequences offer some fantastic surround activity and some very boisterous LFE when waves crash toward shore. A couple of nice group sequences, including a showdown at a local bar between Miller and the brothers, give a nice accounting of environmental ambient sounds, with crowd noises nicely disbursed around the side channels. Dialogue is cleanly presented, and the score, which includes some nice source cues sounds fantastic ("Endless Summer", which kind of sounds like Missing Persons meets U2, is one of the strongest singles I've heard in a long time, and I rushed right to my computer and bought it on Amazon the second after the film ended).
Drift Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Drift Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Drift's recreation of a family dynamic in a discrete time and place is, along with its incredible scenery, its strongest element, but that's not quite enough to overcome a cliché ridden plot and the proto-New Age musings of Worthington as J.B. (which doesn't stop him from picking up a gun a time or two to keep the locals in check). Pollard and Samuel are quite believable as siblings, and the sidebar information about the birth of short boarding and wetsuits is at least passably interesting. It might be best to approach this film as a spectacular music video with some annoyingly ubiquitous dialogue interrupting the soundtrack. This Blu-ray offers very good video and great sounding audio.
Drift Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Exclusive Giveaway: Drift Prize Packages - September 17, 2013
Blu-ray.com and Lionsgate Films are offering two members a chance to win a copy of Drift, as well as a poster signed by Sam Worthington, Myles Pollard and Xavier Samuel. Drift is set in 1970s Australia and details the rise of short board surfing as well ...
• Drift Blu-ray - June 27, 2013
Lionsgate Films will bring to Blu-ray first-time Australian directors Ben Nott and Morgan O'Neill's Drift (2013), starring Sam Worthington, Lesley-Ann Brandt, Xavier Samuel, and Myles Pollard. The release will be available for purchase online and in stores across ...
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