You can't stop the murders - Gary Eck, Akmal Saleh, Anthony Mir
Threat advisory: Elevated - Significant risk of entertaining activities
Constable Gary Raymond (Gary Eck) is a career cop obsessed by his dream girl, local TV reporter Julia Broadmeadows (Kirstie Hutton) and line dancing.
His offsider and childhood friend, Constable Akmal (Akmal Saleh), spends his waking hours brain-storming ideas for his movies. The two spend their days sorting out domestics, looking for lost pets and lying in wait at the cattle-crossing hoping that passing motorists don't notice the speed limit goes from 100 kilometres per hour to 30 kilometres per hour - for a stretch of 10 metres.
Grisly murders in sleepy West Village come as a bit of a shock but Gary realises that this is a window of opportunity for him. A biker, a construction worker, a sailor, a cowboy and Indian - the bodies are piling up. Chief Carter (Richard Carter) calls for help from city HQ. But he gets Detective Tony Charles (Anthony Mir) - shoot first, ask questions later. Gary is devastated, his chance for glory seems to be slipping from his grasp. Still, there's always the annual line dancing championships, perhaps this will be his year.
You can't stop the murders - nobody can stop the murders - or can they?
Theatrical propaganda posters
Target demographic movie keyword propaganda
- Film Australia crime comedy police serial killer constable line dancing Village People
Persons of interest
- Gary Eck .... Constable Gary
- Akmal Saleh .... Constable Akmal
- Anthony Mir .... Detective Tony Charles
- Richard Carter .... Chief Carter
- Kirstie Hutton .... Julia Broadmeadows
- Steven "Sandman" Abbott .... Warren
- Robert Carlton .... Barry
- Bob Franklin .... Mongo
- Jimeoin .... Burrito
- Gary Who .... Trevor
- Jason Clarke .... Slade
- Shane "Umbilical Bros" Dundas .... Shane
- Dave "Umbilical Bros" Collins... Dave
- Kitty Flanagan .... Berryl
- Bruce Venables .... Henry
- Haskel Daniel .... Louie
- Anthony Mir .... Screenwriter
- Akmal Saleh .... Screenwriter
- Gary Eck .... Screenwriter
- Anthony Mir .... Director
Cinematic intelligence sources
- How we made the movie by Anthony Mir
- Studios and distributors:
Special Agent Matti
You can't stop the murders is a small, quirky, irreverent, Australian comedy that travels down the road toward cult classic but runs out of petrol half way there.
There are many aspects of this film that are extremely funny but all in all, the script fails to gain your sympathy for the various "exotic" characters who flit into and out of frame. If you don't care whether someone lives or dies it's hard to take an interest in their death. Perhaps it's the stand-up comedian's biggest pitfall (after not being funny): short attention spans. While the big story flows nicely from beginning to middle to end, there are a lot of gags which lead you up the garden path. Then you have to turn around and come back, find where you were going and head off again.
The script does just about everything it can - given the subject matter - but there isn't really enough story to make a feature film, which is why laughs are a little thin on the ground. You can't stop the murders is a little bit Seachange (which is, itself, a little bit Northern exposure) and that small format story just doesn't stretch to fill the big screen.
Media intelligence (DVD)
- Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound
- Disc: Single side, dual layer
- Languages: English
- Picture: Widescreen (1.78:1)
- Special features:
- Galleries: Photographic
- Trailers: Theatrical
- Subtitles: English, English captions, English closed captions
Security censorship classification
M (Medium level violence, low level coarse language, low level sex scene)
90 minutes (1:30 hours)
Not for public release in Australia before date
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A biker is killed. A construction worker is killed. A sailor is killed. A cowboy and Indian are killed. It becomes apparent to the two hapless country cops that someone is knocking off "members" of The Village People. One piece remains in this sick puzzle... a dead cop.
The idea was originally a two minute sketch for television. Gary Eck, Akmal Saleh and myself were greatly amused by the juxtaposition of murder and camp disco icons.
However, once we started writing, we soon realised the more resonant humour was in the vulnerability of the two nervous police officers, not the murders themselves. We were drawn to write their story.
Several months and ninety pages later we had a first draft of You can't stop the murders. It's all well and good to write a script we thought funny, but who would take it to screen. Who would take a chance on three stand-up comics to pull off a feature film?
Anastasia Sideris, film producer, our long-time friend and my next-door neighbour. Often the butt of our jokes for producing two comedies (Love and other catastrophes and Strange planet), without using any comedians, Anastasia would often retort, "If you bums think you can do better, then write a script and I'll produce it."
Big mistake. A woman of her word, Anastasia set out to peddle us "Bums" to the ruthless investors and funding bodies of the Australian film industry. Having unknown lead actors and an unknown director would seem to be quite an obstacle, but Anastasia thought, "This is a very funny script, how can they say 'no'?"
"Who are these guys?" investors would ask.
"Nobodies." Anastasia would reply
"What have they done?"
"Can he direct?"
Surprisingly lukewarm responses of "No", "No thanks" and "No way" followed. Indeed our band of "Bums" was growing from three to four. That is, until one fateful Thursday night.
"Anastasia, this is a very funny script," said Miranda Dear of SBS Independent, over the phone. "Do you mind if I show it to a colleague of mine?"
Thud! Anastasia had fainted.
Over the weekend Anastasia received a call from Mark Woods of Showtime Australia. "Anastasia, this is a very funny script, is it too late to invest?”
Thud! And so it goes.
Casting the film cost us about nine bucks in phone calls to our comedian friends. I recall ringing Bob Franklin, one of my favourite comedians from Melbourne, to ask whether he'd like to be involved, he replied, "What, a comedy full of comedians? That sounds novel."
Americans have been using comedians in film since The Marx Bros. Robin Williams, Eddie Murphy, Adam Sandler and Jim Carrey were all stand-ups. We felt it was a card up our sleeve that we knew so much talent who didn't have to act funny but in fact were funny.
Writing with particular people in mind gave an immediate voice and consistency to the characters, which I believe, really benefited the script.
Only a handful of characters remained to be cast through the conventional audition process. I wanted the film's comedy to be understated, awkward and vulnerable. I felt there were just as many laughs in the silences and pauses as in the dialogue itself. Once someone tries to act funny you can smell the ham a mile away. It was often the least prepared actors, with the confidence to be awkward and daggy, that were the most impressive.
In one audition, the actor Madeleine Jane was completely inappropriate for the character she read for, but I was so impressed by her comic presence we quickly wrote her into the film. Madeleine is in several scenes without any dialogue but she's certainly very funny.
Shot-listing the film, I wanted to move away from the conventional extensive coverage and cutting of a scene to a more graphic deadpan framing, in order to emphasise the gentle, sleepy, banal world of West Village. Having known Gary and Akmal for so long, I felt confident that single coverage, static framing of our scenes together, would capture our natural rapport, which can prove to be the elusive "charm" of a film. I was conscious of saving the slightly groovier shots for the murder and action sequences to give the story a dynamic when required.
Having never acted, let alone been on a film set before, my first day proved quite a baptism. Not only directing, I was acting in every scene that day. Playing a city detective who shoots a doped up robber armed with a butter knife, I'd first explain to the crew how the scene would be shot; explain to the actor how I wanted the scene played out; get into costume; film the scene, shoot the actor and yell "Cut." We did it about twenty times from various angles and then I yelled "Lunch." I was surprised I wasn't making lasagne in the catering truck.
It's amazing how slowly everyone works after lunch. Especially comedians, who aren't used to free food. Every day was like Sizzler to them. Yet strangely, the lazier they got, the funnier they became on screen. They didn't have the energy to be anything but their sad, pathetic selves.
"Should he wear pink socks? They're funny." "Do you want me to die funnier?" "Do you want to use a wide angle lens? It's a funny lens." It's amazing how the standard perception of comedy, from non-comedians, is still "wacky". However, comedians hate "wacky". A hundred times out of a hundred the answer to such questions was "No. No. No." I was getting whiplash from constantly shaking my head. The brief to the various departments was simple: "Wacky is tacky."
Our last days of shooting was the line dancing finale: sixty odd cast and crew, in a local hall with no air conditioning, at the height of a Sydney summer. I can understand why there are riots when a crowd of people get together in the heat. If there was air-conditioning during the French Revolution I believe the outcome would've been different. Discomfort and frustration swept rapidly through the cast. Yet strangely, the angrier they got, the funnier they became and it was still before lunch. Watching these spoilt brats unravel in the heat was one of my rare pleasures. There was nothing better than asking them for "One more take."
It was only going to get funnier.
Editor Rochelle Oschlack managed to give the characters a depth and pathos beyond just the gag. She was committed to the fluidity of a 90 minute story rather than a 10 second joke. In Rochelle, Anastasia and I had found an "anti-wacky" ally.
I was introduced to our music composer, Jamie Fonti, by the guy who runs my local coffee shop. Jamie lives next door to the coffee shop and we share a similar penchant for bad coffee. In between producing albums for his band, Primary, Jamie felt composing our score would be the perfect stimulus to raise him from his accruing sloth. I'd often walk into his studio to find him fast asleep. After a cup of bad coffee he'd come up with an amazing music piece, in minutes. I'd be so excited listening to the score and he'd be snoring.
A word from producer Anastasia Sideris
Anthony, Gary and Akmal created a story whose characters are not afraid to be foolish, vain, romantic and outrageous. This is what gives You can't stop the murders it's freshness and originality. The challenge, of course, was to make it happen. Never easy convincing people to give you large sums of money. Tougher when just about all the creative principals are novices in the area of filmmaking.
Nevertheless it happened...
The making of You can't stop the murders was filled with all the usual challenges, but the pay-off was a sense of constant discovery: discovery of talent, ideas and - thankfully - support. From the production team, the cast, the investors, to being the first Australian film acquired by Miramax for its local distribution, everything miraculously fell into place. Persistence paid off. It probably helped that I was working with some pretty talented people.
The real reward for me was working with Anthony whose vision and commitment were formidable forces informed by an exciting creativity.