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A group of guys calling themselves the Razor Eaters take it upon themselves to go above the law and get medieval on those they feel have wronged society. And like all good viligantes, they videotape their exploits, which ultimately catches the eye of the boys in blue, leading to a final showdown between the two sides. Cue AC/DC's Jailbreak, 'cause this one's all in the name of liberty (or is it anarchy?)!
Prior to sitting down and watching RAZOR EATERS, the oft-misleading tagline of 'Based on True Events' had piqued my attention. Obviously, since it was based on something that actually happened, you'd want to see just what inspired it. The inspiration was a gang of youths that called themselves the Hedge-Burners gang, which had ravaged Melbourne, Australia not too long ago, and was noted for videotaping its acts. Taking this interesting concept and with a few tweaks, director Shannon Young has crafted a superb directorial debut.
The one thing that will jump at you almost immediately is the amount of energy expressed in the film. From the actors to the editing, there's an intensity that hit all the right stops. From Paul Moder's obsession with bringing the Razor Eater's to justice as detective Danny Berdan, to Richard Cawthorne's methodical madness as the Razor Eater's leader, Zach, the film has no shortage of emotion and adrenaline all around.
Another notable aspect is the use of two different formats for filming: mini-DV and 35mm. The reasoning is quite clever: use the mini-DV to show the rampage of the gang through their camcorder-recorded exploits, and the 35mm as the parallel investigation by Berdan and the police. The two contrast really well, making it feel like the jumping between the orderly and the disorderly.
Despite the maniacal actions of the group, don't expect buckets of plasma. While the film is mostly regulated to gunshots, the intensity and acting intensifies the shootings, keeping things down-to-earth and visceral in their nature. No exploding heads or cut off ears, but you don't need that with a film like this.
Lastly, the idea of rooting for the anti-heroes, while nothing new, takes an extreme turn as the film progresses, leaving you doubting your enthusiasm for the gang's intentions. But then again, you could say the same thing about many revolutionary groups. Case in point: the gang takes it upon themselves to assault and humiliate a wheelchair-bound drug dealer, who despite his profession, is made the victim by the gang that seeks to teach his kind a lesson.
The crusade doesn't stop there, as the Razor Eaters' perverted sense of justice goes even further by kidnapping folks ranging from a traffic cop to an arrogant athlete, putting them in the gang's 'dungeon' and forcing the kidnapped to sign confessions for their crimes against society before the nasty stuff starts.
Overall, RAZOR EATERS is another one of those low-budget gems that relies on its actors and emotion to tell the story, which is a nice change of pace from the straight-up actionfests that tend to put characters in the background in favour of bullets galore. Keep an eye out for Shannon Young in the future, because this one's a keeper.
Video: Despite the film being great, the picture quality is typically low budget, despite the obvious context. As stated above, the film was show in both digital video and 35mm, and so the quality varies between scenes in colour, saturation, detail, and so on. Noise is a big problem with this picture, especially in the low light scenes. Probably the thing that sticks out the most is the 1.33:1 non-anamorphic fullscreen transfer, which upon some background checking, reveals that the film was originally shot in 1.85:1, then framed in 1.33:1. Why this was done, I have no idea.
Audio: Like the transfer, the audio is mixed. The only track on the screener is a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, which features distortion in spots, which becomes apparent with the enthusiastic acting. Apparently, the Australian version of the film has a 5.1 Surround mix to its credit, and is much better by far.
The screener I got featured no extras, no chapter stops or real main menus. It's too bad, given the fact that retail version contains Deleted and Extended Scenes, a Video Diary and Music Video. For those looking for more, the Aussie DVD set features more stuff like commentary tracks and a couple more featurettes.
The most fun I've had with an Australian-based film since WOLF CREEK, RAZOR EATERS is a treat for those indie fans looking for a film about folks taking the law into their own hands, but ultimately wind up destroying themselves and what they originally sought out to do. If you can, grab the Australian DVD, since that's where the meat is. If you can't, the Region 1 release still offers some good treats.