Smash Palace-Amazing Performances
Scott FS | Sacramento, CA United States | 05/18/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'm really glad Smash Palace is FINALLY going to be released on DVD. It's an amazing film. Shot in New Zealand, and released in 1981 (that long ago?), I remember it well. Bruno Lawrence plays Al Shaw, a rather eccentric fellow who is a very difficult person to like. He is abusive to his wife (pointedly in a difficult-to-watch scene where he has a 'romantic interlude' with his wife, who then leaves him), obsessed with race cars, and a peculiar friend to a few selected souls, who don't always return the favor. He certainly has problems with authority figures. On the other hand, he loves his daughter terribly (in the positive sense of the word). After his wife leaves him, he makes the decision to re-unite with her, and that decision makes his whole world teeter on the brink of complete and utter disaster. The tension is very high for the entire film. You're just waiting for him to self-destruct. The only question is, who is he going to take with him? Personally, I don't blame his wife for leaving him, as he is quite difficult to live with (though she gives him some good reasons for his hostility). And for his best friend, well, let's just say Al's not happy with him, either. Twenty-three years after its release, I still remember this film vividly. That's the power it has. This isn't a movie with black-and-white, good-guy/bad-guy characters, every one is more complicated than that. It is a film that is gripping and disturbing, but, as I've said, very memorable. A fine early effort from director Ronald Donaldson, who has gone on to direct 'Cocktail', 'White Sands', and last year's 'The Recruit'.Personally, I liked this film better than any of those very good efforts.Highly recommended."
More collectible than watchable?
D. Hartley | Seattle, WA USA | 12/10/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This unique "two-fer" release by Anchor Bay, billed as (what we assume to be) the "first" volume of the "Roger Donaldson Collection" leaves the thinking reviewer a bit stuck. Do I review each film seperately, or do I trot out a smarty-pants "auteur" essay about the director? Frankly, it was finally spotting "Smash Palace" on DVD that got me excited about this release. The co-feature, "Sleeping Dogs" (a speculative political thriller about what might happen if New Zealand suddenly fell under violently oppressive, Stalin-like government control-kind of a poor-man's version of "Z") was obscure even to a film geek like yours truly; and as it turns out, I haven't been missing anything all these years. Sloppily directed, with more than its share of glaring plot holes, "Sleeping Dogs" nonetheless does have some historical signifigance; it was the debut film for both director Donaldson and star Sam Neill. It was also the first New Zealand film to ever be distributed in the U.S. The "Sleeping Dogs" featurette, when seen as an oral history of the struggling birth of the NZ film industry, is actually much more compelling than the film itself! "Smash Palace" is the more accomplished and critically acclaimed of the two films on this collection. Reminiscent of "Shoot The Moon", it deals with the story of a disintegrating marriage between an eccentric race car driver/auto salvage yard owner and his neglected wife. Bruno Lawrence gives a memorably edgy performance as the cuckholded husband. It is unfortunate that Roger Donaldson never really evolved much after the promise of "Smash Palace", he's gone on to give us such middling, by-the-numbers fare as "Cocktail", "No Way Out" and most recently, "The Recruit". "****" for "Smash Palace" and "**" for "Sleeping Dogs". Both films have excellent transfers, decent sound and director/cast commentary. Mostly of interest to film buff/collectors."
Matt Kratz | Richardson, TX | 06/01/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I didn't care too much for Sleeping Dogs, which I found to be too confusing for my tastes, but I loved Smash Palace. I remember seeing it while on vacation in New Zealand, and when it came out on DVD, I jumped at buying it. Bruno Lawrence delivers an incredible performance as Al Shaw. Smash Palace is a junkyard filled with run-down and wrecked card and is owned by Al and his wife Jacqui. It also serves as one of Al's two main obsessions. The other is with building a race car. Jacqui craves attention;Unfortunately, Al pays more attention to his obsessions then he does to her, which leads her to having an affair with his best friend Ray. When Al finds out, he reverts to drastic action which includes kidnapping their young daughter and heading for the hills. This movie has perhaps the most unforgettable final scene you'll ever see in a movie. I loved it and recommend it strongly."