Directed by Craig Lahiff
Trimark Pictures (1997) 96 minutes
Judging by his Oscar nominations, and box office reviews, Russell Crowe is more than a good actor: he has the ability to pick good scripts. He’s starred in one of my all time favorite movies “LA Confidential”. “Heaven’s Burning”, starring Crowe, is not one of his better picks. Maybe he made this movie because he owed some back rent or fines for starting bar fights. He doesn’t really stand out in this low-budget Australian flick the way, say, Mel Gibson did in “Mad Max”.
The movie starts out showing us Midori (Yoki Kudo), a Japanese woman in Australia on her honeymoon. Her husband Yukio (Kenji Isomura) gets word that she has been kidnapped. It turns out she has pulled an Audrey Sieler and faked her kidnapping to get away from her boring, buttoned-down, business man husband. Russell Crowe plays Colin, a down on his luck Australian who joins an Afghani gang in robbing a bank. The robbery goes bad and Midori is taken hostage by Colin to prevent her from being killed by the other robbers.
Colin and Midori join up to become a sort of charisma-free Bonnie and Clyde. She cuts her hair short and bleaches it blond. They then begin robbing banks, killing a few bad guys along the way. When Yukio gets word that his wife has teamed up with a bank robber, embarrassment about her faked kidnapping and her crimes (and maybe her haircut) turn him into a psychotic killer. He shaves his head, gets a motorcycle (because motorcycle riding = evil) and remorselessly kills everyone he encounters, from his best friend to an accordian playing paraplegic.
While these killing sprees are going on we get lots of stark, beautiful shots of the outback. Since everyone’s behavior lacks motivation I started thinking that maybe being in the outback was driving everyone insane (and making them want bad haircuts). However the movie offers an explanation of sorts. One of Yukio’s victims lectures him about how the Japanese have built up bad Karma because of their actions during World War II, so Yukio deserves everything that happens to him. I can’t tell if this is supposed to be the theme of the movie. The only reason to see this movie is if you are curious to see Russell Crowe before he was famous or you like pointless, squishy violence.
Since I can’t add too much more about this day brightener, I’ll comment about the vehicles. There’s plenty of ’70’s cars including various shots of Australian Falcons and Holdens. The bike that Yukio rides is a black Hinckley-built Triumph Thunderbird. Yukio cruises around on a killing spree dressed in black leather jacket and matching black full face (which apparently he leaves unstrapped– or is this just for ease of removement for scenes requiring drama?)
There’s a lot of shots of bike riding the desolate dirt roads of Australia (one watching would believe that the Aussies have not yet discovered asphalt) and one scene where Yukio has to lay ‘er down after an encounter with a kangaroo. Look for a cameo by Australia’s own Man At Work, Colin Hay, as a wheelchair bound accordian player (playing “Ride Of The Valkyries” no doubt!) and watch for a shot of a Jawa decal in the rear window of a pickup.
If you ask me, a night would be better spent riding your bike, stopping in at your local Outback Steakhouse, then finishing off the evening with an oilcan of Foster’s while listening to the tick tick tick of your bike cooling off.
Believe me, you’ll thank me.