deadenddriveinRunning from the Guns, the seldom-seen Australian crime caper from the late eighties, has almost everything you want in a buddy/car chase film. It contains fast things and furious things. In fact it reminds me of a car movie franchise that has both fast and furious things that I can’t remember the name of.


Australia, 1987, Jon Dixon


Davie, a small-time crook and a cool guy mechanic, with his blond side-boy Mark Hembrow (Out of the Body and Wet and Wild Summer!), accidentally nab a shipping container packed with toy koalas, as you do. Apparently some rubbish bad guys want the container back. But before the rubbish bad guys can retrieve the toys, some rubbisher bad guys want them. Confused? Don’t be. This sleeveless nunchucking halfwit should clear things up.

It didn’t clear things up? Let me clarify. Terence Donovan, who performs the stupefying role of Bangles, is the leader of the bottom-shelf bad guys. He wants the shipping container so he can blackmail the top-shelf bad guys. You learn pretty quickly every character in Running from the Guns, in some way or form, is dodgy.

If I were a clever writer I would theorise that the story and its felonious characters reflect on Australia’s convict origins. But I’m not a clever writer, so I’m just going to link the opening sequence where the nunchunking halfwit and his hollering yobbo mates smash into stuff while Davie and the blond guy drive on, completely unaware they’re involved in any sort of car chase.

It’s an impressive opening and you can see where some of its $6 million budget went. The stunt work is sterling. Though safety does seem to be an afterthought.

Unfortunately the nunchucking halfwit and his hollering yobbo mates don’t make another appearance in the film. I can only hope they were too busy helping the nunchucking halfwit sew on some sleeves for his denim jacket.

But don’t let their sudden departure stop you from watching. A different set of hollering yobbos appear a few scenes later. They perfectly encapsulate the experience of driving on any street in Australia.

In a span of minutes, Bangles goes from threatening tough guy to total tithead as he joins sides with Davie and the blond guy. The three attempt to stay one step ahead of the big boss of a corrupt corporation who wants his toys back. And a step ahead of the big boss’ henchmen that are sent out to kill them.

Nikki Coghill (Dark Age and The Bob Morrision Show) plays Jill, Dave’s love interest. She’s an idealistic lawyer on a crime commission trying to bring the corporation to justice. But back to Bangles. Watching his transformation is both baffling and utterly hilarious.

There’s a subplot with an annoying cap-wearing conman and a shitty detective named Mulachy (pronounced malarkey). And some dodgy union heavies, led by the imposing Gerard Kennedy and his famous lazy eye (Body Melt, Mama’s Gone A-Hunting). There’s a thrilling car chase along the Great Ocean Road that ends with Bangles blown-up in a Charger and a biff at the bad guy’s pool party.

It all concludes with the cap-wearing conman, the shitty detective and the union heavies teaming up with Davie, blond guy and some hilarious-looking cardigan-wearing uncles shooting-up the big boss’ Egyptian-themed home.


John Blake plays Davie. Blake appeared in the mini-series Anzacs and The Lighthorsemen and was hyped as the next Mel Gibson. But shortly after The Lighthorsemen was filmed, Blake was involved in a tragic car accident. He sustained permanent brain damage, ending his acting career.


The film was directed by Jon Dixon, who directed Blake on Anzacs. He co-wrote The Man from Snowy River and has directed only one project since Running from the Guns. The film was produced by Geoff Burrowes. His production company, The Burrowes Film Group, was formed after the success of The Man from Snowy River and Anzacs. In late 1985, the company had a $53 million film slate. Some of the films on the slate were Running from the Guns, The Man from Snowy River 2 and Dogs in Space. Most of the films weren’t financially successful and the company went under. Running from the Guns was one of those flops. It made $72,000 at the box office.

When Running from the Guns ends, it’s clear Davie and blond guy haven’t learned a single lesson about the perils of criminal activity as they set out to plan their next toy heist. Even straight-laced lawyer Jill wants in. Again, if I were clever writer this would be the part where I reiterate my theory about the film’s reflection on Australian convict beginnings. But I’m not a clever writer. Instead I’ll link this amusing music clip from Die Laughing, singing the film’s theme song.

The plot becomes nonsensical and the film blows its load in the opening sequence. However there are enough car chases, explosions, gunplay and yobbos to keep you highly entertained. If my words don’t entice you, read this quote from the following IMDB comment:

“Terence Donovan is asked to perform the ugliest of nude scenes – one of which is repeated in the end credits… as if the producer thought it was all such fun we would be roaring with laughter… not… In fact the audience was screaming in disgust at the preview session I attended.”

Oh, did I mention that Running from the Guns features the most bizarre brothel/aerobics/sex scene montage in Australian cinematic history? I didn’t? What the fuck are you wasting your time reading this sentence – WATCH IT!

Availability: Running from the Guns is one of the many Australian genre films that has never been released on DVD or Bluray. If you’re lucky you might find a VHS copy on eBay.