Faaaark! I’m sure I’ve spoken about it a good thousand times before on Mondo Exploito, but don’t you just love that feeling when you go into a film knowing ZERO about it and come out foaming at the mouth with excitement? It’s my favourite thing about being almost cripplingly obsessed with sniffing out odd films. A few weeks ago, I knew nothing about To Make a Killing. I stumbled across it in a bargain bin. It was an Aussie exploitation film from the late 80s with a price tag of five bucks, so I figured I may as well nab it. I’m very, very glad I did.
TO MAKE A KILLING
aka Wild Boys
Australia, 1988, Karl Zwicky
We follow a young upper middle class kid, Damon (Tamblyn Lord), as he stumbles into the grim world of permanently sweaty criminal Terry (Craig Pearce). Damon tags along with Terry and his gang, desperate for a taste of a more dangerous lifestyle. Terry and his beer-swilling cronies spend their days robbing houses, but, after learning that the curious Damon has some very rich family friends, their crimes extend beyond robbery to assault, terror, and murder. Though its Straw Dogs-esque synopsis may suggest a predictable outcome — and yes, Straw Dogs is definitely an obvious influence — To Make a Killing takes a few surprising turns, and the story finishes on a quietly dark note.
Tautly written by the great P.J. Hogan (director of 90s Aussie masterpiece, Muriel’s Wedding) and featuring solid direction from Aussie TV mainstay Karl Zwicky, To Make a Killing is deceptively tacky in its style. Zwicky is a Home and Away veteran and infuses this nasty film with jarring telemovie aesthetics. Deliberate or not, to me this awkwardly tasteless finish only strengthens the impact of its grime-drenched violence and refusal to adhere to any kind of feel-good pay off.
Another enormous bonus is that, despite its bleak approach, To Make a Killing doesn’t make its audience endure long scenes of physical and mental torture. Instead it breaks up these moments with action and gunfire making for a film that is both shocking and entertaining — a balance that most home invasion films struggle to achieve. That said, this is a film that absolutely does not pull any punches. Characters are killed unceremoniously, and there’s no heroes to be found. This is one heck of a mean-spirited movie.
I’ve perhaps talked up To Make a Killing a little too much. It’s a film that is best to go in raw, knowing nothing about it. But honestly, there’s so little about it about on the web, I felt that I needed to give it a mention on Mondo Exploito. While this doesn’t quite stand with Australia’s all time best exploitation efforts, in my books, it’s not far off. I’ve gone on and on about it many times before, but Australia simply does not make films like this any more, but what a delight that there’s still obscure gems like this waiting to be discovered.
To Make a Killing is no longer listed online by Aussie distributor Umbrella, so it can’t be bought direct. I’ve seen in lurking about in stores, but if you’re outside of Oz, prepare to fork out quite a bit. It should be said: if you have this on VHS, don’t bother with the DVD upgrade. The DVD is clearly taken from a video source. Umbrella are generally a very good distributor, so I imagine this was the best source they could work with.