I’ve had a special place in my cinematic heart for Australian films ever since I saw The Road Warrior as a wee lad. I always keep my ears and eyes open Ozploitation flicks. I knew I had to see The Odd Angry Shot, Australia’s Vietnam war film.
Set during the Vietnam war, the film begins with the going away party of our main character. He’s the charlie sheen of this flick, he represents the audience in the film, green and inexperienced in the ways of war. He lands in country as part of a special forces team and meets his fellow brothers in arms. They’re a goofy bunch full of sarcastic and grim humor, doing whatever they can to have a good time in the middle of a war. We follow the men on their journey through their tours of duty during one of the nastiest wars in history.
Within the first 10 minutes of the film, there’s mortars going off and being being blow to bits. Blood and guts follow as the troops see to their wounded. We then go back to playing cards and joking around in the midst of the chaos. There’s some firefighting sprinkled throughout the film with more casualties but most of the film focuses on the down time of the troops as they await orders. There’s great comradery between the troops and some really funny parts, though the film is certainly not a wacky comedy. It’s a grim character study of the ups and downs of war and the futility of the conflict. Starting out patriotic our lead character just wants to get out of the war by the end.
There’s a ton of loose ends in this film. We see a character get maimed only to never know what happened to them. Or a psychological break only to never return to the character. Things just happen and the troops just move on. This abundance of loose ends bothered me at first while I viewed the film but eventually I caught on to the fact that this was intentional. In life there are no neat endings. We meet people, we witness their life for better or worse and we lose touch. Having no control of their day to day activities this losing of contact would be even more significant during the war. The film ends up feeling like a series of vignettes rather than a cohesively plotting film. The troops are there, they hate it, make the most of it, and some of them die. The end.
If you’re looking for an action filled grisly war film, you could do a lot better than The Odd Angry Shot. But if you’re looking for a character driven war film, you could do a lot worse. It’s an interesting film with some great performances and a uniquely Australian perspective.