BMX Bandits is the first Australian film to be reviewed on this here blog dump. It’s also the first film starring Australia’s queen of cinema Nicole Kidman. Although in my opinion Naomi Watts is the real Australian queen of cinema, but then again she didn’t marry Tom Cruise. No matter what you think of that nut job, he’s Hollywood royalty. Tomorrow I’ll be reviewing my first Serbian film. I hope it’s as jolly as the people of that fine country! For now, here’s BMX Bandits!
BMX Bandits is fairly light on the ground with story so here it is. Two BMX bikers named P.J. (Angelo D’Angelo) and Goose (James Lugton) manage to break their bikes after crashing them into a shopping trolly that escaped the clutches of one Judy (Nicole Kidman!). They claim to not be her friends but she loses her job because of this and so the three friends… hang on, they’re friends now. OK. Anyway, the need money for new bikes and eventually stumble across some walkie talkies that were left for some bank robbers to pick up. Then they get chased. That’s about it.
After about the first 30 minutes of set up the film is pretty much one long BMX chase with the occasional scene through in for the purposes of having the odd bit of dialogue to break up the action. No kidding, one sequence must go on for at least 15 minutes with nothing but bikes jumping things and two bumbling criminals falling over each other. There’s little in the way of character development or genuine progression. The three kids don’t really know why these crooks are chasing them for about an hour so they have no real plans in mind for how they’re gonna deal with them beyond cycling away. But, it would be harsh to pick on the film for lacking a real story. It is very clearly about BMX bikes and the bandits that ride them. Except they aren’t bandits because the kids aren’t doing anything remotely bandit like. Except for maybe taking the walkie talkies. Their T-shirts say “BMX Bandits” on them though so maybe that’s all it really takes.
Obviously this is a film made in a simpler day when all you needed for a kids film to be passable was bright colours, something radical and bodacious for them to get excited about and a pair of idiotic bad guys. there’s actually about 6 villains but they serve no purpose. Even the ring leader is only there to issue threats to his gang and be there at the end. As a kids film it’s pretty enjoyable. The bike stunts do get fairly imaginative at times and it never takes itself anywhere near seriously.
Like all similar films of the early 80s BMX Bandits is blessed/plagued with a synth heavy pop soundtrack full of songs you’ve never heard of because they only seemed to have existed in Australia at the exact moment this film was being made. Vangelis this score is not.
Performances are pretty typical of low budget Australian films of the time, full as it is with thick accents and clunky dialogue. It’s actually pretty amazing how basic Kidman’s performance is in this considering a few years later she was making a name for herself in Hollywood. OK, so it took her years to actually get good, she certainly learned her craft, but here she wouldn’t be identifiable from any other young Australian actress.
The films main enjoyment comes from it’s sheer not-giving-a-fuck-ness of it’s story. We go from bank robbers dressed as The Big Bad Wolf and the Three Little Pigs to hiding in a graveyard from two crooks dressed as if they’re ready to be unmasked by Scooby and the gang. It’s humour is that brand of Aussie slapstick that you will have stumbled across before. Lots of bickering between the two main villains whilst they fall into things or get stuff dropped on them. Every element of this film marches to the beat of it’s wn drum. it is 100% Australian through and through. It could only have been made more Australian if Crocodile Dundee and Yahoo Serious had turned up with a BBQ and a bag of frozen shrimp.
Despite the film having obvious flaws all over the place I can’t hate it. I can’t call it a good film but I can’t call it bad. It’s one of those films that you just enjoy because of the sheer silliness of the whole film. As it stands BMX Bandits is mostly a curio for people wanting to see Nicole Kidman’s first film. A trivia question answer. It is also a great little sample of Australian cinema from the days when they were producing some brilliantly rebellious stuff such as Stone, Mad Dog Morgan and Razorback. Worth a watch but don’t go expecting your life to be changed for the better.