Title – Idiot Box (1996)
Director – David Caesar (Dirty Deeds)
Cast – Ben Mendelsohn, Jeremy Sims, John Polson, Graeme Blundell, David Wenham
Plot – Australian dole bludging no-hopers Kev (Mendelsohn) and best mate Mick (Sims) hatch a plan to rob a bank and strike it rich but professional bank robbers and determined police officers may ruin their plans of breaking free from their dead end lives.
“We’re not gonna shoot anyone, we’re just gonna have some fun”
Review by Eddie on 05/04/2022
From the deadly serious likes of Animal Kingdom or Two Hands, the darkly humorous hybrids such as Chopper or Death in Brunswick or the downright outrageous misfits like Gettin Square and The Mule, Australian cinema has a long and storied affiliation with the crime genre, with the rarely spoken about but well-regarded local cult oddity Idiot Box a mostly forgotten crime comedy gem that is an important piece of the early Ben Mendelsohn puzzle in the years leading up to his eventual ascension up the Hollywood ranks.
Written and directed by long-standing Australian filmmaker David Caesar, whose delivered other well known Australian features such as Mullet, Dirty Deeds and various episodes of a large collection of home grown TV series, Idiot Box follows the daily exploits of bogan best mates Kev and Mick (played with a lot of energy by Mendelsohn and his co-star Jeremy Sims, whose now a successful director) as the two dole inspired no-hopers hatch a haphazard plan to rob a bank and strike it rich in an attempt to escape the holes they have dug themselves.
Consisting of a lot of Mick and Kev merely roaming around their neighbourhoods, visiting pubs, gaming arcades, local shopping malls and hanging around at home while listening to rock music and drinking VB longnecks, Idiot Box isn’t always a barrel of laughs, as sadly the depressing lives of Mick and Kev aren’t exactly the lives of a fantasy world that doesn’t exist, Idiot Box has a rough and ready feel too it that has allowed it too barely age these close to 25 plus years on from initial release that saw the film become a minor hit at local cinemas before heading the way of a largely obscure existence in the home video market, making it a film hard to track down in today’s climate.
Key to the films success and a large reason why the film is able to overcome its sometimes aimless and walking in circles narrative is the interplay between Mendelsohn and Sims who work each other fantastically as their fairly unwise but somehow likable nobodies grow on us as the runtime wears on as we are caught up in their unlikely scheme to make a quick buck and start winning at life.
Now a well known commodity when it comes to bringing the troubled too life in a variety of ways, Mendelsohn is as good as you’d expect as the eternally angry Kev, a man who reveals in his anger and even suggests that it is one of his main hobbies while Sims gets less moments to explode his also quietly effective as the poem loving Mick with the two performers creating one of the more memorable Australian duos of the 90’s in roles that shaped their career trajectories in the years to follow.
Final Say –
It’s not grand Australian stuff but Idiot Box is a film that deserves more reflective viewing in today’s era as it sits largely unspoken about in the hallways of local productions and it stands as a further reminder of the talents of Ben Mendelsohn who has long been lighting up the screen as Hollywood slowly but steadily caught on.
3 1/2 heartfelt poem recitals out of 5