Slow train from the billabong

mad bastards

I have a lot of movies on my Netflix queue, far more than I can take the time to watch. So about every three months I’ll reserve a Saturday when Scott’s at work and I have no other plans and maybe it’s raining, and curl up on the couch and cull through them. I like culling. Some of my queued movies are so bad they last only thirty seconds before boop aand delete. Ahh. Others are iffy and can make it fifteen minutes or so before the boop, and still others hold my attention through to the end.

But very so often a movie will come along that sparks my imagination to the point where I’ll watch it by myself ten times in a row, then tell everyone I love about it so they’ll want to watch it too, preferably with me, on my eleventh or twelfth or fifteenth time. If I’m exaggerating at all, it’s only in the literal sense. In my heart, the film loops continually. The second to last one that hit me like this was Adam’s Apples, and that was two years ago.

The last one to do it was Mad Bastards.

Mad Bastards is an Australian movie about a young boy and the father he’s never met. Both of them struggle with deep anger and the propensity to express it violently–the father in fighting, the son in lighting fires. The father, TJ, lives in Perth and has reached the end of his rope, rejected by his family of origin, without friends and on the verge of arrest. At the urging of his imprisoned brother, and with nothing left to live for in the city, TJ decides to travel upcountry to meet his 13-year-old son Bullet, who lives in Five Rivers, a town in the northern part of Australia, Aborigine country. Unbeknownst to TJ, Bullet has been arrested for setting a house on fire and as a result, in lieu of jail, has been assigned to a two-week camp for “run amok” boys in the wilderness. And so they begin their own, personal walkabouts–Bullet in the desert and TJ on the long trek across country–each finding himself and finally the other along the way.


Also key to the story is Bullet’s grandfather, Tex, the Five River’s sheriff, who has helped to raise the boy, and has tried to be a pillar of strength and model of good behavior to his family and the town and its men. As he deals with the ramifications of the arrival of his grandson’s wayward father, he is given the opportunity to offer forgiveness to him, and a chance to start afresh. His path parallels the others’ in its own unique way.

mad bastards tex

The movie beautifully presents the act of acceptance–both by others and of one’s responsibility–as a means of dispelling rage. Bullet’s rite of passage was through survival in the desert and the committed presence of his father. TJ’s was through his commitment to Bullet and his acceptance into the family and clan. Interestingly, they both went through actual performed rites, tangible illustrations of what had occurred internally. Rites are touch points, solid reminders of one’s process, and because of that they’re important.

Other colorful characters round out the story, the most essential of which are the traveling musicians who are woven throughout: The Pigram Brothers, Alex Lloyd, and assorted others, all of them genuine Australian treasures. The soundtrack is so intrinsic to the movie that it wouldn’t be the same without it, and what a joy to see the musicians actually perform the music that usually plays in the background. It was done so well that it felt organic, not a distraction at all.

Every one of the songs was wonderful but here’s my favorite. I just want to crawl into it and stay there and never leave. The video features a few scenes from the movie so you can get a feel for it:

I was thinking through why I love Mad Bastards so much (and Adam’s Apples, whose main protagonist is a hardened neo-Nazi)… It has to do with rites of passage, which we are sorely missing in our culture, but mostly it has to do with redemption. I LOVE redemption stories. No matter how badly you fuck up, there’s always hope.

Also, there’s something in me that responds to huge big men with rage issues. I know, it would be dangerous if I acted on this in real life instead of restricting it to the movies, but it’s true, I can’t help it. It makes perfect psychological sense, though. I know myself well enough to realize that that rage is in ME and they only reflect or inhabit it. As TJ said, “There’s a little man inside me with an ax,” and I know what he means. That little man has always been in me, but being who I am, a woman who from childhood was taught to be sweet and compliant, I’ve never felt free enough to express it. These big huge angry men have no problem expressing it, and in fact have to take the trip backwards toward gaining control of it. I’ve had to come from the opposite direction, and learn to express and not suppress it… The hope is that we’ll meet each other somewhere in the middle, where our anger can be used to benefit and not hurt us or others. That’s where we can dance.

Love to you.


Filed under Beloveds, Celebrity crush, Ear candy, Punch you in the tooth, Small blue box

4 responses to “Slow train from the billabong

  1. This sounds like a really good movie, thanks so much for talking about it here!
    I’ve never had much trouble with anger issues, mostly because I saw early on how they wreck a life from the inside out (my Kentucky bloodlines tend to be independent and peppery-tempered) ~ so I made it a point to face things and work my way through them and find some kind of peace~ acceptance, as you mention above.
    When I got older, I deliberately chose to cultivate sweetness and kindness (which now I guess is a concept that has a bit of taint to it, since so many show it out of an ego-based need to please others), because, though I saw how sweetness and compliance could be spineless, or have warped motives behind it, working on expressing anger and then finding peace over it and cultivating sweetness/kindness brought me closer to the unconditionally loving and peaceful feelings that I would very much like to live in as much as possible. So, if I did it to please others when I was little (that was never a heavy burden for me, anyway), it became something more beautiful when I was old enough to choose for myself~ the past habit was good “practice” for the main event, once the motive had matured.

    • Yes, so now you can dance! There’s a huge difference between sweetness & compliance being taught by others as a means to control a person, and that person choosing it for themselves. In both movies I mentioned, the big huge angry men chose to control themselves in the end, in large part because they were softened by the acceptance they found from others, but also, let’s be honest, because once accepted they didn’t want to be rejected. We suppress anger because it tends to terrify or repel the people around us. An angry person is unpredictable.
      I tend to look at rage as the white-hot blinding degree of anger that either shuts everyone else out or bulldozes toward them with harmful intent, or is ALWAYS present, without much relief, and that’s the kind of anger whose roots need to be examined, the kind that doesn’t fit well into society. But regular old garden-variety anger is good; it’s a cleansing and activating force, perfectly normal and healthy, if it isn’t allowed to fester. There’s plenty to be angry about, and realizing that can bring much-needed change: individually, all the way to globally. The challenge is to use it as a tool instead of be controlled by it. But each person has her or his way, and if yours is to choose sweetness and kindness instead, who am I to say any different? It works for you. :)

  2. Did you blog eat my comment yesterday? Oh well, it wasn’t very profound :) Just saying that that film sounds like an interesting one, with a lot more character than the recent Superman one …

    Anger is one of those things, you need it and you have to have it but if you have too much, or express it “inappropriately” then it can do damage. Course if you keep everything bottled up and sweetness and light then you are probably damaging yourself.
    How’s your summer going?

    • Bummer, yes! I must have had a hungry blog yesterday because it gobbled up your comment before I even saw it! If you could manage to see this film, I think you might like it… not a blockbuster by any means, but one of those quiet, powerful ones that stay with you. And I’m sure MUCH more character-rich than the recent Superman… :) Ha, I’m just remembering that I said I like big ANGRY men… Clark Kent may be big (kinda) but he ain’t angry. Bored now.
      So far, my summer is going very well. There’s been a good balance of activity and leisure, and you know how this can be, but everything seems to be pointing toward Aug 17th, Van’s wedding. I’ll be happy when it’s over! Lord. THEN we can really relax. But Scott and I have already gotten a couple motorcycle rides in and I’ve been doing lots of reading. When it stops raining every other day it might actually feel like summer!
      How is yours going?

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