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By Merle Bertrand | November 1, 1999

Oftentimes going to the movies is a pleasant, even joyous occasion. Going to see this powerful, raw dose of depression from director Rowan Woods is NOT such an event. Brett (an excellent David Wenham) has just been released from jail after serving a year-long sentence for assaulting a liquor store owner with a screwdriver. Actually, he came out on the short end twice; earning not only jail time but a wicked looking scar from his intended victim’s carving knife as well. There’s no reason to feel sorry for Brett, however. Together with his deadbeat little brother Stevie (Anthony Hayes) and his hen-pecked older brother Glenn (John Polson), Brett suffered those wounds during a drug deal gone bad. Rather than reforming him, however, his prison stint has made him even more bitter and violent. Soothing and outwardly cheerful, in reality he’s a scarcely repressed danger to his terrorized, long-suffering mother as well as his ex-girlfriend Michelle, Glenn’s snobbish fiance Jackie, and Nola, a kind but slow-witted girl Stevie has gotten pregnant but now scarcely acknowledges. One by one, the women not only sense Brett’s growing rage but feel it spreading to his siblings. As the women flee the unhappy household faster than a lifeboat on the “Titanic,” The Boys’ rage, frustrations and boredom ferment into a brutally lethal brew.
While “The Boys” is a solid piece of filmmaking, watching this Australian film is…well, it’s not “My Three Sons,” that’s for sure. You know, as you sit there in the dark, that as nasty as things are now, they’re only going to get worse. Wenham is fantastic as Brett, oozing syrupy platitudes while his watery, pale eyes never once soften in his gaunt, bloodless face. We recoil in increasing horror as we watch his dysfunctional interaction — humorless, biting jests combined with sadistically cutting cruelty — with his brothers, who appear to despise each other almost as much as they despise themselves. Mom may think she can control these three, but we know better. Woods does a great job conveying the taut drama within each scene, but the non-linear, chronological free-for-all he employs is a confusing artifice, at least until you realize that’s what he’s doing. Based on Gordon Graham’s stage play, which was, in turn, tragically based on a real life event in Sydney, Australia, “The Boys” isn’t a great film, but it is very good. Raw and nasty, it’s also thoroughly depressing. You should check it out anyway. Just don’t expect to be in a beer and pizza mood afterwards.

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