Format: Turner Classic Movies on rockin’ flatscreen.
When Spielberg made Jaws, he changed a great deal of things in the movie industry. The first thing he did was create the idea of the summer blockbuster. Whether that has been for good or ill I leave up to the individual. The other thing Spielberg did was create a series of Jaws knock-off films involving other elements of nature going berserk. These sorts of stories certainly existed before Spielberg. The ‘50s were rife with giant insect and creature films. But Jaws gave use a world where the reality didn’t need to be changed; it was just a really big shark. From that we got movies like Grizzly and Piranha, and we still get them in films like Anaconda and Lake Placid. Razorback, from the mid-‘80s, is an Australian Jaws that replaces the shark with several tons of aggravated and presumably delicious wild pre-bacon.
The film starts with our introduction to the creature. Kangaroo hunter Jake Cullen (Bill Kerr) is watching his grandson when his house is literally run through by the razorback in question. It runs off with the child, presumably to eat it. What follows is a trial where Jake is found not guilty because of a lack of evidence, but has his reputation and life destroyed. In no small part, this feels like the story of dingoes running off with a baby that led to A Cry in the Dark.
Cut to a couple of years later. Animal rights and wildlife reporter Beth Winters (Judy Morris) is sent to Australia to investigate the workings of Petpak, a pet food company that evidently violates any number of laws and regulations and seems to depend on hunters dragging in kangaroo corpses to be put into the pet food. In the course of her investigate, Beth films brothers Benny (Chris Haywood) and Dicko Baker (David Argue) illegally creating pet food. The brothers chase her off the property and pursue her, eventually attempting to rape her. They are driven off by the giant boar, which proceeds to destroy Beth’s car, drag her out, and eat her. With no witnesses, she is presumed fallen down a mineshaft.
Enter Beth’s husband Carl (Gregory Harrison), who arrives to investigate his wife’s disappearance. In the course of this, he encounters the Bakers and is abandoned in the outback by them. This leads him to Sarah Cameron (Arkie Whiteley), a friend of Jake Cullen. And from this point forward, it’s about finding evidence of the boar, tracking it down, and doing something about the Baker brothers. It should come as no surprise that this is precisely where the second and third acts are going to go.
So let’s talk about the good and the bad here, because there’s quite a bit of both. On the positive side, we have some really interesting effects. When Carl Winters is dropped off in the outback, he has some very interesting hallucinations that are really funny to watch. It’s great stuff. I also love the presence of Arkie Whiteley, who is much better known as the girl with the huge topknot in The Road Warrior. Whiteley was a great presence on the screen.
On the downside is the fact that there are absolutely no surprises here. In so many respects, this absolutely is Jaws with a porcine critter. Jake Cullen is our Quint character—the one who makes his living hunting the creature in question (he switches from ‘roos to razorbacks after his grandson’s disappearance), and his fate is in many ways similar. Sarah is our Hooper character—an expert on the creature in question and involved at least in part for scientific reasons. Carl Winters is our Chief Brody, personally affected in some way by the creature and dedicated to hunting it down. Knowing this, the only real difference is the Baker brothers.
I also object to (but fully understand) the immediate attraction between Carl Winters and Sarah Cameron. I object to it on personal grounds—the dude is still mourning his wife, but naturally hooks up with Sarah on their first meeting after she saves him from the delirium of his outback adventure.
In the end, Razorback isn’t that interesting, but it’s also not that bad. It’s a movie you’ve very much seen before and seen better. But, to be fair, you’ve also seen this a hell of a lot worse.
Why to watch Razorback: It has its moments.
Why not to watch: It’s little more than Aussie Jaws involving angry bacon.