An Australian independent film about sacrifice, alternate realities, and darkness, “Nightclubber” is more than just another fancy modern fairy tale. It’s a dark and complex story told from the point of view of a man named NC who hold the key to the salvation of the world. Part “Blade Runner”, part live action anime’, “Nightclubber” is an action film with meat on its bones and a cataclysmic battle between good and evil that puts other science fiction blunders like “Mortal Kombat” and “The Fifth Element” to shame. It has the cussing and hard-edged brutality we’ve come to expect from a good Australian film.
The world is enveloped in eternal darkness. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t time to enjoy a good night out on the town! NC is a man who runs one of the most popular nightclubs in Melbourne. That sounds relatively normal. He’s also the ‘Chosen One’ of the Izan who must bring about the end of the darkness with his strength and his mysterious ties to the supernatural forces at work behind the Earth. That’s not so normal. The Rachman Church has dominated humanity for ages, holding the Earth under a blanket of darkness. The Izan, an ancient spiritual group, is determined to free themselves and humanity from the Rachman domination. Only NC can bring about that change, but doing so means he’ll have to put those he loves at risk, and face some truths about himself he has tried to forget over the millennium.
“Nightclubber” begins with a very complicated mythological sequence showing the origins of the Rachman Church and the Izan. Colors, shapes, and imagery are all used in such a way as to mesmerize the viewer. There is some sexual imagery that doesn’t seem to fit in, but is interesting and makes the entire sequence a feat of artistic camerawork. Fluorescents dominate the entire film; pinks, blues, whites. These are the sorts of colors you’d find at night in the city. There is a futuristic strangeness to the film, like “Mad Max” or a Phillip K. Dick story. NC must re-link the chain in the Izan that will allow them to destroy the Rachman Church. GEBOs, Genetically Engineered Biological Organisms are villains that look like frogmen from an Anime’ film and supernatural beings who watch NC’s every move lend a menacing quality to the fantasy of the film. Nightclubber is infused with martial arts terminology and philosophy, ronin warriors, masters and disciples, and heroes of honor and legendary strength. It’s unclear as to whether this is a future, past, or present time. There are elements of the story that lead you to believe it is the present, yet there is an entire world of mythology, secret societies, and spiritualism that pervades everything.
NC (played by Dale Reeves) spends a good deal of time half naked or in spandex workout clothes, so it’s a good thing he’s got a good body. Dale Reeves is the Australian Bruce Willis (Bruce Willis prior to 1995, that is). NC is a superhero, not in the traditional sense, but he appears to have come straight out of a comic book. His fighting moves, his clothing, and his reluctant-hero attitude smack of Marvel. However, this is no ordinary superhero. More like Batman or the Punisher, he is plagued by something deep inside him that forces him to accept his fate. . NC is a reluctant hero. It’s unclear as to whether he is hiding from his past or that he has forgotten about it. Unlike these tortured heroes of comic lore, however, NC is a master of the spiritual and the physical. His energies are in balance, his body is a finely tuned machine, and he can control his thoughts and actions when under pressure. NC truly stands for all that is whole and balanced in this film.
One word can easily some up the most startling part of this film: EYES. Utilizing the most interesting and compelling employment of makeup in a film I have ever seen, “Nightclubber” has re-imagined with stunning simplicity the capabilities of lighting and makeup in a low budget production. Using “eyes” as not only a window into the characters, but as a window into the breathtaking world that Dale Reeves has created, the eyes are symbolic of the spiritual and philosophical issues in the film on so many levels. Truly simple, and yet genius, this makeup trick and color play will leave you unsuspectingly drawn into the magical aspect of this film.
The direction is flawless and beautiful. This is an A+ film in terms of direction, camerawork, and artistic innovativeness. There are some spectacular fight sequences that really show off the martial arts skills of the actors. There is a breathtaking final scene and final battle, in which NC becomes the link in the chain that will defeat the Rachman Church.
Despite the direction and the beautiful storytelling, there are some problems with “Nightclubber”. There are too many characters and it’s difficult to discern their relationships with one another based on the little information we are given. Some of the actors whisper or scream to such an extent that it’s difficult to hear in the most dramatic scenes. By creating such an artistically ambitious film, Reeves challenged himself in ways that many filmmakers wouldn’t attempt with an independent film. Reeves pulls it off most of the time, but isn’t always able to hold together the art and the script.
Somewhat confusing but always beautiful to look at, “Nightclubber” is about as innovative and genre bending as you can get in an independent film.