Reverse Runner (PG) ***
Director: Lachlan Ryan & Jarrod Theodore.
Cast: Dan Cannon, Rosco Brauer, Bianca Linton, Dave Callan, Rhys Mitchell, Julian Shaw, Steve Moneghetti.
IT'S unfair to judge this on the same criteria as Hollywood blockbusters and even low-budget Aussie independents.
That's because Reverse Runner was made with no government funding and a non-existent budget by a team of extremely driven non-professionals.
The end result is unsurprisingly amateurish, which lends it a certain charm, but it's also impressive in many ways.
For starters, it looks good, the story moves along nicely, the score is great and there are some really strong laughs amid the few-too-many groan-worthy gags.
It also has some interesting ideas, and writers/directors Ryan and Theodore have put a lot of thought into their central gimmick the sport of reverse running.
Cannon, a mate of Ryan and Theodore, stars as Kid Campbell, the backwards-favouring athlete destined to fulfil his dream of becoming a reverse runner and winning gold at the Alternate Athletics.
Standing in his way is the cocky multiple champion Steven James (Shaw), an unsupportive father, as well as Kid's own self-confidence.
Reverse Runner builds really well, nailing its three-act structure. There are some missteps along the way, most notably the movie's need to jump forward a year without being able to find a good way to work its love-interest subplot around that gap in time.
The performances are a mixture of the spirited and bizarrely bad, but Cannon and Brauer have a good crack at it. Brauer gets some good laughs, as do the wacky commentator duo of Rhys Mitchell and comedian Dave Callan, while Linton is given little to do, yet is obviously the only "proper actor" in the cast.
There are some genuine laughs in Reverse Runner, amid some really laboured gags, complete misfires and an over-reliance on bad puns and backwards jokes.
But even when the jokes don't work (and a lot of potentially funny stuff suffers from bad timing), it adds to the film's strangely off-kilter vibe and the weird reality the characters live in. It's not only that it's an alternative universe where children grow up idolising backwards runners, but it's also a world where $1000 can solve all your financial problems, parents make their kids live in a tent in the backyard and a girl falls for a guy because of his heart of gold and passion for reverse running, yet doesn't make any contact with him for almost 12 months.
What really shines through here is a promising future for Ryan and Theodore. There is a level of professionalism evident despite the amateur performances, dodgy dialogue and script hiccups which shows that good things lie ahead .
Three stars may be a tad generous, but the film strives for an admirable level of visual and holistic perfection, despite being built on generosity, dedication and no real budget to speak of.