Review – The Merger

There is something homely and comforting about a classic Australian film. None of that popular style seen a lot in recent years with beautifully shot surfing films. That classic working class simple life that somehow seems hilarious even to those living that lifestyle. The Merger kicks all those goals, making you feel right at home having a hearty laugh at the things true Aussies say and do.

In a small country town by the name of Bodgy Creek is a football team with a questionable future. Their clubrooms have been found to have asbestos and they need rebuilding. Rebuilding the clubhouse would be fine, if the town had some spare cash. And there’s no cash because of the town killer, ex-AFL player Troy Carrington (Damian Callinan).

Playing professional AFL, Troy broke his leg in several places running through the team banner and found himself back in his hometown. In an attempt to save the old growth forest, he managed to have the entire timber mill closed down putting a lot of people out of work. Despite the town hating him, Troy is asked to help with the football team.

The team has two options, firstly merge with the neighbouring town. Or secondly, utilise the large number of the immigrant community members to help build the new club house and also fill in some much-needed spots on the football team.

What Troy didn’t realise is that he created something far more than a football team. He built an even stronger community and brought some people together who otherwise wouldn’t have met.

The Merger is what you would come to expect from a classic Australian film. It has qualities of The Castle, Crackerjack and a The Dish. But all the while having that Home and Away and Neighbours simplicity to it. That isn’t to say in its simplicity it becomes a bad film, the contrary. The Merger is simple because of that well known laid back lifestyle. There’s no pretending to be something any different than what a true country football playing community is.

Under the homemade magpie preventative bike helmet and the hilarious larrikin Bull Barlow explaining his medical issues to his Grandson Neil, The Merger is full of some strong messages about Australian culture. It’s about welcoming other countries into this very diverse Australian community and not zoning in on that fact. It’s about looking past the differences society has long forced into its communities and welcoming these teammates, next door neighbours and finding common ground and in turn lifelong friends.

It’s based a large part around the Aussie staple, Aussie Rules Football. And while there’s a lot of references and some hilarious mime training, it doesn’t play a huge part in the film as it just ties it together. It’s an intricate balance to entertain the audience with sport but also give it substance and story line.

There are some wonderful performances from a stellar Australian cast including John Howard. Heading the pack is Damian Callinan who plays Troy “The Town Killer” Carrington. Callinan has been on the Australian film, TV and comedy scene for a number of years. While believing he had an AFL career is not as believable as you’d think, he plays Troy as an adult easily. There’s a natural bloke down the street vibe that completely works for him.

Callinan’s love interest in The Merger is Kate Mulvany as Angie Barlow. You’ll know Mulvany from her work on a wealth of Australian TV shows and parts in films like The Great Gatsby and The Little Death. Mulvany plays her character of Angie like the Mum of your best mate. She’s cool, well-loved and doesn’t mess around. But as a love interest for Callinan, it completely misses the mark. Their chemistry on screen is without a doubt mixing well, but there is something about what looks like a rather large age difference which takes away from the legitimacy of an otherwise special relationship.

Overall The Merger is this wonderful heart-warming film with so many themes it’s hard to pinpoint what it’s most resonating is. Ultimately, it’s about relationships on so many different levels and how a simple thing like Aussie Rules Football can foster these relationships. What really makes this film is the true Aussie humour and antics. Something as simple as explaining to your Grandson that the prostate is just “a gland up your pooper”. It’s homely, fun and just what you’ve come to expect from a traditional Aussie comedy.

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