Title – The Merger (2018)
Director – Mark Grentell (Backyard Ashes)
Cast – Damian Callinan, Kate Mulvany, John Howard, Fayssal Bazzi, Josh McConville, Aaron Gocs
Plot – One time professional footballer Troy Carrington (Callinan) whose returned to his small country town of Bodgey Creek takes up the task of coaching the struggling local football team the Roosters, and Troy quickly realises he will have to look at new ways to fill the team quota.
“If they can play, they can stay”
Review by Eddie on 05/10/2018
As Australian as a hot meat pie and a pair of well-worn thongs, The Merger is a quintessential ocker production but one also with a heart and message that will resonate with viewers of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds, making this local yarn a genuine winner.
Based on its lead actor and screenwriter Damian Callinan’s well regarded one man show of the same name, audience’s won’t be overly surprised by where The Merger’s plot line of underdogs up against the odds takes them but that matters little when there’s so much heart and soul on display in Mark Grentell’s film, along with a winning collection of character’s that fittingly take the leap from stage to screen.
Taking place in the fictional small country town of Bodgy Creek and focusing around the struggling Bodgy Creek Australian Rules Football club The Rooster’s, whose demolished asbestos ridden club rooms are the least of the clubs worries, The Merger nails small town mentality and the key role sport plays in these communities, as Callinan’s retired AFL player Troy Carrington takes over the coaching reigns and embraces the towns refugee community to ensure the football club can field a competitive team.
Through this story The Merger crafts a truly loveable ensemble as Callinan is flanked by a fun and well-structured entourage of supporting players from John Howard’s grizzled old town mainstay and refugee hater Bull Barlow, Kate Mulvany’s determined single mother Angie Barlow and her son Neil (played promisingly by relative newcomer Rafferty Grierson) and then the rag tag makeshift Rooster player’s who get the films best laughs and most heartfelt moments.
It’s within this aspect that The Merger will surprise unsuspecting audiences, as what might initially seem like a stereotypical Australian sports comedy filled with scenes at the local pub or creative swearing becomes much more, as Callinan and Grentell shine a light on the oft hidden underbelly of Australian’s intolerance towards those they don’t understand and cultures that are foreign to theirs.
While still telling an often hilariously on point story of the Roosters and their playing roster that includes such gems as Porterhouse the local chef or Snapper the entrepreneur, The Merger brings in supporting characters like Fayssal Bazzi’s Syrian refugee Sayyid, Harry Tseng’s Taiwanese Tou Pou or Francis Kamara’s African Didier and with that, a flavoursome and culturally rich tale of acceptance, friendship and mime football emerges.
Final Say –
A future Australian favourite that will become a mainstay of lounge-room viewing in the years to come, The Merger is a little film with a big heart and one of the most loveable Aussie comedies of the last few year’s.
4 sweet n sour chicken kievs out of 5