Knuck (Matt Nable) is the president of an outlaw motorcycle gang called the Copperheads. While he has been in prison, Paddo (Ryan Corr), the vice-president, has been running things in preparation for Knuck’s return. What Paddo has also been doing is modernising the Copperheads’ activities and alliances in order to turn the gang into a legitimate business. He is supported by his girlfriend Katrina (Abby Lee), but opposed by Knuck’s wife Hayley (Simone Kessell). Now Knuck is out of prison and is ready to reassert his leadership of the gang. Paddo has to work out how to challenge the old president and keep Katrina and his brother Skink (Josh McConville) safe during this power struggle.
1% is an Australian movie created to grab the audience. It’s too well-made to wear the old label “Ozploitation”, but it is going for a similar level of thrills and impact. In the last few years, the “genre-film” has become more popular in Australian production schedules, meaning our movies are more likely to come from categories like horror, fantasy, action, thriller and science fiction rather than exclusively the historical epics or arthouse dramas of previous decades. Thus, films such as UPGRADE, CARGO and 1% are now made in this country and screened in Australian cinemas without causing the clutching of pearls or writing of angry letters to Cinema Papers.
Director Stephen McCallum’s film takes its cues from the ongoing law and order battle against motorcycle clubs/gangs in this country which has similarities with the situation in the United States. Fans of the American television series SONS OF ANARCHY will likely see some parallels with that material. More surprisingly, there is a low-key Shakespearian strand running through this project; Knuck versus Paddo definitely has the undertones of warriors fighting to be king; Hayley and Katrina both have similarities to Lady MacBeth. That element is mostly there for those who want to see it, this isn’t the Scottish Play in leathers, it’s a film that tells a contemporary story about the drive for power and vengeance in a criminal world.
Ryan Corr is the centre and gives a full-on portrayal of a man who thought he knew his future and is quickly thrown into doubt and turmoil. His Paddo is smart and capable, but somehow cannot walk away from something that is essentially wrong for him. His brother Skink, played by Josh McConville, is one of the elements keeping him connected to the gang and is a liability in every sense. McConville and Corr, create a believable and flawed pair of siblings. Abby Lee who was magnetic in NEON DEMON (2016), does well with Katrina. She is seeking to influence others, but is still unsure about the best way to go about this. Simone Kessell, as Hayley, is fighting for her husband’s legacy and is convincingly vindictive and cunning in the role. Matt Nable, the former leader, back to assume his metaphorical throne, is solid in a role that is more brutal and damaged than any other character he has ever played.
1% promises confrontation, action and violence and it delivers amply. Director McCallum has taken on the challenge of a first feature film and dealt admirably with the multitude of obstacles all directors face. The film is a low-budget affair with a small story covering a limited timeframe, however, you won’t see this as your attention is directed towards the escalating interactions between the participants. At any point, Paddo or Knuck could back down, but that would merely delay the inevitable. In this particularly tribal world, power can only sit with one person. Paddo’s idea of professionalising the gang, reads as a form of unwanted civilization and regulation; more or less the thing the members joined to escape. More money is not why Knuck wants to lead this gang, in his understanding of things, power comes only through blood and fear.
The relative simplicity of this set-up makes 1% an easy story to hook into. McCallum and his cast take us through a full-on journey into a world that most of us would rather avoid; we are like the people in the 99% of other motorcycle clubs. We’re the law-abiding citizens. We don’t strive for the “honour” of being in that other 1%.
If you’re looking for an intense 92 minutes at the cinema, check out 1%. (7/10)
You can listen to Darran’s interview with Matt Nable here.
You can listen to Phil’s interview with Stephen McCallum here.