The Rooster Review

Reviews Films


Writer/Director Mark Leonard Winter brings audiences his debut The Rooster. A contemporary psychological drama set amongst the backdrop of an isolated, Australian forest community.

On opening, two things are obvious. One, The Rooster is a visual treat. Masterful shots showcase the gorgeous landscape of rural Victoria. Two, you’re either going to ignore or be frustrated by the often distracting and god awful vocal soundtrack, coupled with dissonant jazz.

Dan, (Phoenix Raei – Stateless), is a country cop who’s struggling with the demands of the job and a post relationship breakdown. Forced to take leave after botching an incident with a childhood mate, which resulted in death, Dan kicks off this period of self reflection by heading down a path of isolation and alcoholism.

Through drunken misadventure, Dan meets The Hermit, (Hugo Weaving – The Matrix), a surly old alcoholic squatter whose long trodden the path Dan has in front him. The pair form a tenuous friendship as they navigate a shared interest in burying their feelings with alcohol, poorly dissecting each other’s demons along the way.

The Rooster moves slowly, contemplating, sometimes confusingly dreamy. However, the film speaks the language of trauma, misunderstood behaviour and internalised agony. Exploring the stoic but failing existence of lonely men. This may not land with many and on the surface appears boring, but it’s what the film is showing and not telling that hits hard. For anybody who’s felt what The Rooster is selling, these characters are immediately relatable, and the film has the potential to pull your heart out through your throat. 

Phoenix Raei’s performance is pretty subdued, his character coming across as merely a vehicle to get to the funny stuff with Weaving’s The Hermit. This isn’t to say Raei isn’t giving it a good turn. Dan’s struggle is conveyed. It’s just that Raei’s depressed cop is eclipsed by Weaving’s authenticity as a chaotic, angry old prick in the woods. Which is where the film really opens up and entertains.

While there’s a heartbreaking twist, it’s not the one you’d expect and The Rooster unfortunately leaves a few threads dangling, being a bit of a letdown.

Releasing in Aussie cinemas from February 22nd, The Rooster will polarise viewers and is a rough 6/10 ping-pong balls. It’s an exploration of failed masculinity, isolation, shocking community mental health support and the poor coping mechanisms that follow.

Luke is writing short stories, screenplays and film reviews when he's not at the day job or looking after the needs of his family. So one Powerball...