Narrated by Russell Crowe, Bra Boys is a documentary film about the real-life brotherhood, murder and family loyalties of Australia’s warring surf gangs — most notably the chest-thumping, title-indicated clique from Maroubra, an economically depressed beach-side suburb 14 kilometers from the Sydney Harbor.
Written, directed and produced by Sunny Abberton, himself a childhood
resident of Maroubra’s public housing projects, the film traces the
cultural evolution of the tattooed, much maligned youthful
surfing community. Abberton uses his own brothers as a narrative point of entrance for the subcultural study. In addition to himself,
there’s Koby, Jai and Dakota — one charged with murdering a Sydney “standover
man” (Australian slang for an extortionist who uses threats or physical violence
to extract payment on behalf of another), another pursuing
a professional surf career but charged as an accessory in his brother’s
murder trial, and another trying to hold the family together. Then there’s Sunny, whose sole inheritance is his siblings’ national infamy.
Using archival shots, new on-site footage and interviews with all sorts of local figures, Bra Boys presents a dynamic portrait of the current “surf vision,” a story that is at once compassionate, compelling and confrontational: fights for against-the-odds success, predictable failures. The centerpiece of the film details a massive incident in which Bra Boy members tangled with a bunch of off-duty coppers at a birthday party. “Just a good, old-fashioned brawl,” demurs one participant, but it’s this easy, reflexive embrace of knuckle-dusting that comes across as most unnerving. One sees how this shrugged-off behavior calcifies into justification for further violence when an older member says of the area’s rampant carjackings and shootings: “It’s good, it turns us into what we are.”
Grim stuff, it sounds like, and that’s not entirely untrue. Ultimately, though, part of the film’s narrative illustrates how even amidst the burdens of a stigmatized legacy, a new generation can hope and strive for better, and work to try to end violence. If other surf documentaries like Dogtown and Z-Boys and Bustin’ Down the Door only whetted your appetite for international glimpses at the cultural surrounding dedicated beach life, this film is definitely worth a look.
Housed in a regular Amray case with an attractive accompanying cardboard slipcover, Bra Boys is presented in a non-anamorphic 1:78 aspect ratio, with Dolby digital 5.1 surround sound and 2.0 stereo audio tracks.
Unfortunately, and somewhat surprisingly, there are no supplemental extras, which seems quite curious for a boutique release whose maker is obviously so passionate about, and personally involved in, the movie’s subject matter. To purchase the DVD via Amazon, click here. B (Movie) D (Disc)