For an easy going, congenial nation of people, the Aussies don’t half make bleak, disturbing cinema. Whether it be Snowtown, or Animal Kingdom, to Son of a Gun and Hounds of Love – they depict gritty, naturalistic tales in a harsh way, and 1% – from director Stephen McCallum, follows on this trend.
Set amidst the criminal underworld of motorcycle gangs, we delve into the life of Paddo (Ryan Corr), the second-in-command of The Copperheads, standing in for Knuck (Matt Nable) who is spending time in prison. Alongside his opportunist girlfriend Katrina (Abbey Lee), he seeks to take over the helm – yet finds himself persistently held back by his brother Skink (Josh McConville), who has learning difficulties, and gets himself in a spot of bother, becoming a target of rival gang member Sugar (Aaron Pedersen) – leaving Paddo with a big choice to make; whether he furthers his own standing in the collective, or steps in and protects his sibling.
McCallum’s film, while stylistically impressive, giving off a real feel for the environment we’re inhabiting – falls for so many trappings of the genre at hand. If affectionately employed any such familiarity can be somewhat comforting, but you get the impression here that 1% is masquerading as something unique and original, when sadly, it’s neither.
The performances do elevate the material however, with Nable in particular turning in a truly compelling performance as Knuck – nuanced and subtle, while brutal and intimidating at the same time. The character is emblematic of a film that has roles you can’t truly invest in and root for. Now there’s absolutely no obligation to like anybody, there’s always room for films complete solely with flawed, imperfect characters – but in this instance, you do feel emotionally detached from the narrative, when there isn’t really a single person you feel you can get behind and support.
Arguably the most fascinating character of them all is Katrina – a Lady Macbeth-inspired role that seeks to undermine her boyfriend’s position in the gang, with her heart, and mind, set on personal gain. And yet regrettably it’s a character we see too little of, not quite fleshed out enough – and while it’s encouraging that there are multi-faceted female roles written of this nature, the next step is ensuring they’re given enough screen time to see them explored.