'Locusts': Film Review

Locusts Still - Publicity - H 2019
Courtesy of Estranged Films
A taut B-movie of the distinctly Aussie variety.

A man comes into conflict with a local gang of hoodlums when he returns to his remote outback hometown in Heath Davis' Australian crime thriller.

If you're planning a trip to Australia, here's a friendly word of advice: stick to big cities, like Sydney and Melbourne. Do not, under any circumstances, visit the outback. Because as many a movie set there makes clear, absolutely nothing good ever happens in the outback.

That's certainly the case with Locusts. Heath Davis' taut B-movie thriller was filmed in Broken Hill, the remote desert town that also served as the location for such films as Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, Razorback and the 1971 classic Wake in Fear. In Locusts, the location stands in for a town called Serenity Crossing — the name, you won't be surprised to learn, proves ironic.

The story begins with city slicker tech entrepreneur Ryan (Ben Geurens) returning to his hometown — formerly prosperous from its mining industry but now in economic despair — for the funeral of his estranged father, from whom he hopes to inherit some money. After reuniting with his alcoholic, ex-con brother Tyson (Nathaniel Dean), Ryan learns, much to his disappointment, that his father left no assets. But that's only the beginning of his problems. He soon runs afoul of a gang of amped-up local hoodlums who run his car off the road. It's easy to tell these are very bad guys, because one of them blows his nose directly onto the ground.

After coercing Ryan into joining them at the Sidewinder, a local strip club (it turns out to be surprisingly elaborate for such a rundown area, but every town has its priorities), the roughnecks inform him that their father owes them "a long line of credit," which they now expect him to pay up. To the tune of a hundred grand, no less. And to make sure he does so within a couple of days, they've kidnapped his brother, whom they threaten to kill.

It isn't long before Ryan reconnects with his tougher, rural roots, with the help of his former girlfriend Isabella (a terrific Jessica McNamee, The Meg), a single mother who makes ends meet by working as a stripper. She comes up with a plan to rob the Sidewinder, which would handily solve her financial problems as well as Ryan's. But complications, not always of the fully credible variety, ensue.

There's nothing at all original about Locusts, from its rather too symbolic title to its all-too-contrived plot. But director Davis, working in collaboration with producer-director Angus Watts, has crafted an uncommonly stylistic example of its genre, infused with mordant humor and, true to its locale, plenty of exotic dead animals lying in the road. (You never see a car swerving to avoid a kangaroo carcass in any of the California desert-set crime thrillers that this film resembles.)

While the lead characters are fairly generic (are there any strippers who don't have a sickly child?), the hard-boiled supporting figures are a mighty colorful lot, from the corrupt local police chief (Peter Phelps) who runs the town with an iron fist to the wheelchair-bound crime boss (Alan Dukes) to the manic, fast-talking gang leader (Justin Rosniak).

Cinematic pulp fiction of the distinctly Aussie variety, the film also benefits from Chris Bland's expert widescreen lensing of the dusty, forbidding environs that make you thirsty just looking at them.

Production: Closereef Productions, Estranged Films
Distributor: Bonsai Films
Cast: Ben Guerens, Jessica McNamee, Nathaniel Dean, Andy McPhree, Justin Rosniak, Steve le Marquand, Damian Hill, Alan Dukes, Ryan Morgan, Kenneth Moraleda
Director: Heath Davis
Screenwriter-producer: Angus Watts
Executive producers: Don Kornits, Jonathan Page, David Whealy
Director of photography: Chris Bland
Production designer: Carlo Crescini
Editor: Romain Mongin
Composer: Burkhard von Dallwitz
Costume designer: Zohie Castellano

85 minutes