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How sweet would it be to suddenly become filthy rich? I mean the amount that’ll guide you into retirement right there and then. No more full-time work, no more cringing at your phone bill and no more having to cook or clean for yourself. Absolutely brilliant. Right now you’re probably thinking what you’d do with the money and how much spending fun you’d have. Next you’ll be down the shops to buy a lotto ticket.

The lure of large sums of money is undeniably great, whether it be the top post in a large business, the fruits of being a world-renowned star or, in the case of this film, the founders of a dirty great big chunk of gold. We’re talking real big, so big that calling it a ‘nugget’ is almost an insult.

Nugget, The

Movie
Like so many Australian films seem to start nowadays, we begin in a typical suburban setting and come across some typical suburban characters. This time it’s three mates, named the Black Tar Gang who all work for the council on the roads (hence the name). First there’s Lotto (Eric Bana, of Chopper fame and soon to star in the screen version of The Hulk), who is called lotto because he buys a lotto ticket every week but is actually really unlucky. Then there’s Wookie (The Castle’s Stephen Curry), who is a familiar conspiracy theorist who thinks he saw a Wookie in his backyard one day. And lastly there’s Sue (Dave O’Neil, stand-up comedian and breakfast radio personality), who sued a pie company after he found someone’s finger in his steak & bacon one day.

These three blokes are your typical Aussie fodder; laid back (lazy), ambitious (stupid) and fun-loving (drunks). Each has a nice home with a nice girlfriend, with Sue’s partner shipped in from Asia with the money he was awarded in the law suit. Aside from working on the roads the boys like to go gold prospecting in their small town and when they collectively purchase a metal detector, much to the chagrin of their better halves, the men are keen to look for anything of value.

When Sue manages to attract a few specks of gold onto his boot while taking a leak the trio get quite excited and manage to retrace their steps back to what looks like a rather large rock. But this is no ordinary rock. It’s a rock of solid gold and the answer to all their prayers. In predictable fashion word soon gets out that this ‘nugget’ has been discovered, reportedly the largest chunk of gold ever found. While the boys are just stoked that they’re going to make it into the Guinness Book Of Records evil starts to raise it’s ugly head and before long the nugget does a fair bit of traveling.

The three mail leads are hilarious together and all bring out the best comic timing for maximum impact. Eric Bana remarked that the film was incredibly enjoyable to make because there were no real rehearsals and you can tell all three are having a ball with the material. Bana plays the straight funny guy very well, while Curry’s innocent goofball from The Castle is perpetuated quite well in this one. But it’s O’Neil who really surprises in his first film role as Sue. O’Neil uses his comedic work on stage to spurt out some of the most preciously funny moments in the film like a seasoned performer.

The rest of the cast is incredibly solid as well. Belinda Emmett is good as Lotto’s sensible yet-fiery wife, Peter Moon relishes the chance to play a greasy villain, while the King of grease, Vince Colosimo, (is there anything Australian he hasn’t been in of late?) has a minor but effective role as another one of his dodgy ethnics. It’s also fun to spot where all the other actors have appeared previously, as Australian movies inevitably turn up a host of familiar faces and voices us locals will be quick to point out. You’ll kick yourself when you can pinpoint their whole resume or agree on which soapie each of them appeared. Fun stuff.

Nugget, The

The film itself is quite enjoyable. The universal appeal of a film such as this one is always going to be doubtful but for lovers of your typical urban feel-good tale you can’t go wrong with The Nugget. The story doesn’t drag at all after the introduction of the characters and their rather large find, nor does it transcend into a series of sharp one-liners. The narration (voice and acted by Max Cullen) is used quite well although the sub-plot surrounding the narrator’s character was probably a little distracting and didn’t serve the thrust of the story all that well. Nevertheless, the flashback tool coupled with explanations from the narrator make for an interesting story, and it never stoops to just fill the gaps with a voiceover.

As the cover says, being rich ain’t easy, but if it was half as fun as this movie turned out to be I’d be happy. Just slap me in the face with a wad of hundred-dollar bills and I’ll be off thinking about my next purchase, which is precisely how the characters act in the film. The writing is spot on, the situations at least vaguely familiar to your common denominator and the characters incredibly likeable. It won’t have you in absolute stitches nor will you be hung up on the suspense, but the film never pretends to by anything more than a bit of suburban fun.

Now, where are those lotto numbers?

Video
Again Roadshow have put together a great-looking transfer and demonstrate how their quality is across the board rather than focused purely on the blockbuster releases. Presented in 1.85:1 and 16:9 enhanced, the visuals are a little on the soft side but on the whole look quite impressive. Colours are rendered particularly well, making the most of some well-shot scenes and fantastic surroundings. The print is clean as expected, though there is the occasional hint of aliasing in selected parts but nothing that will really distract you from the action. The night scenes look particularly sharp thanks largely to some great lighting techniques and, of course, the crispness of the visual transfer for this DVD package.

Audio
The disc contains a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack as well as a Dolby 2.0 mix. The 5.1 track is great to listen to, which is a big surprise as I didn’t think I’d be getting much out of my rears (my rears, not my rear) when I threw this disc into the player. Rest assured, however, that they will have some work to do to surround you in the world of gold-diggery. The cockatoo, a major plot device early on, flies around the speakers very effectively and Lotto’s surround-sound system is also used as a demonstration on rear speaker use. Surround-sound exploiting surround-sound? Pretty cool stuff.

Dialogue was always clear aside from the odd-muttered word here and there, but that’s to be expected from Australians and their laid-back mumblings. Heck, if I had a dollar for every time I had to repeat a sentence I’d be.....well, that’s another story.

Nugget, The

Extras
Included on this disc is a great little extras package even though it looks like it was thrown together the week before it was released. First up is the audio commentary with Director Bill Bennett (who helmed the brilliant Kiss Or Kill) and the three leading males. This is quite funny track, not surprisingly, with Bana, O’Neil and Curry providing both constant laughs and factual information about the film. Bennett is also quite informative, making this one of the better scene-specific tracks of recent times.

Next up on the list is the theatrical trailer, peculiarly placed on the second rung of the extra features ladder. Still, it’s a pretty good trailer that teeters on the brink of revealing all the most effective jokes and running a little too long just to whet the appetite.

Moving on is the interviews section, starting with a great piece featuring Belinda Emmett and Stephen Curry on Australian variety show Rove Live. The host of this show, incidentally, is Emmett’s boyfriend and the conversation inevitably leads to lots of talk about things other than the production of the film. In the same vein as the Swordfish DVD, this Rove Live interview is a great addition to the disc.

The rest of the interviews are with the key cast members and director Bill Bennett, all conducted on the set during the production. Most of them run for a short while and are well worth a look. We learn about how Bennett wanted to buy the film rights to a story called The Pearl but had to adapt his own version when they weren’t available. Just be warned though that Vince Colosimo covers up his mike with his arms half-way through his interview so a lot of his piece is very muffled. Overall a great interview package that doesn’t resort to needless back-slapping.

The next extra is a behind the scenes featurette, which features some roughly shot making-of footage starting with the large roller driving onto director Bill Bennett’s car. I hope Bill gets some money out of this film because his car didn’t look too flash afterwards. There’s some clips from the film intertwined with great behind the scenes footage so this piece is a must see for all fans of the film.

Still going strong, there’s an alternative ending which tries to tie up the sub-plot involving Max Cullen’s old man. Thankfully this was scrapped as it didn’t add too much to the story and ended up dragging the final few scenes out far too long. It’s still worth a look as an alternative sequence to the final cut. Then there’s a few bloopers to look at which basically just highlight how much fun the cast had during the shoot and how much they tried to improvise for comic value. This is a short section so don’t get your hopes up but it’s still worth a look.

Nugget, The

Lastly there’s a collection of six deleted scenes with a nifty play all feature so you don’t have to go back to the menu to watch each one. It’s basically a fair chunk of footage that fleshes out the story of Lotto’s nosy neighbours (featuring an extended appearance by Aussie comic Jean Kittson), but there’s also another scene with Sue as he fills in a hole in the road. Nothing all that exciting to look at here but a welcome addition nonetheless.

And just a note about the terrible slick for this release that’s totally dotted with errors. I’m not sure whether reviewers received a working copy or not but I certainly hope these things were changed. Firstly, the running time for the film is more like 89 minutes than 97 and I’m sure there aren’t eight minutes of credits because they only run up to the 93 minute mark. Secondly Bill Bennett is billed as director of a film called Kiss and Kill rather than Kiss or Kill, a pretty big oversight for anyone familiar with this Australian film. And lastly the extras section touts an Irwin Thomas music video that must have been scrapped shortly before the disc was printed, unless I’ve missed an easter egg or something. I’d be delighted to be proven wrong in this instance.

Overall
The innocence of the film can’t really be faulted and director Bill Bennett sure knows how to get the most out of a story. A stellar cast featuring a who’s-who of the Aussie film (and entertainment) industry plus some cracking gags make this one well worth a look. While it may not have translated into box-office gold, The Nugget is the perfect ingredient for a light-hearted suburban fable. The DVD itself features surprisingly good video and audio and a comprehensive extras package, making this disc an absolute gem (or is that nugget?).


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