Dir/scr: Steve Pasvolsky.Aust. 2004. 88mins

Oscar-nominatedlive-action short director Steve Pasvolsky graduates to full-length featureswith Deck Dogz, a small-scale teen action drama that confidentlytranscends its narrow focus of three Australian adolescents on a skateboardingodyssey.

Opening wide (150 screens)at home on Jan 6 during school holidays, it's unusual for an Australian movieto so aggressively target the mainstream multiplexes. But unlike the US 1993feature The Skateboard Kid, this is not a fantasy film for children andis more directed at knowing teens (in one scene in a drug-hazed city club, BlueFlame is lured into oral sex with a passing girl).

Such urban reality couldboost box office performance and possibly see Deck Dogz extend its reachbeyond its target local teen/male audience as a vigorously dramaticpresentation of international urban sport. The cheerful on-screen participationof skateboarding superstar Tony Hawks should also help, especially in the US.

The eponymous, self-namedDogz are from the sprawling, unlovely western suburbs of Sydney. AmbitiousSpasm (Kennedy), hot-headed Poker (Wilson) and rapper Blue Flame (Lu), from aVietnamese immigrant family, are constantly searching for new board skills, andconstantly in trouble with their families and teachers.

By the time they start theirovernight trek to the Oceanside Beachbowl, where visiting American skating starTony Hawks is awarding sponsorships, the Dogz are in deep trouble, pursued bypolice, drug-pushers and angry fathers.

Pasvolsky's scripting hereis tight and involving, with plenty of subplots and character revelations tokeep the journey fast and interesting, including surprises and unexpectedemotion to the climactic competition.

The boys' obsession with asmall range of skateboarding jumps and tricks is limiting to their developmentas characters (and as adults) and their jargon-filled, self-developed languageis defiantly impenetrable.

But Pasvolsky knows theterritory well and assembles a credible coming-of-age drama while stilldelivering nonstop thrills and spills, a clever conceit that marks him out as ayoung director to be watched.

The three inexperiencedleads - Lu is acting for the first time anywhere - acquit themselves well,handling the punchy, hyped-up dialogue with easy naturalism. , not least withthe thoroughly pleasant, laid-back performance of Tony Hawks.

Technical pluses includeincidental music and driving songs from Klimek and Heil (Run Lola Run)as well as a major contribution from editor Moran (Moulin Rouge).

Animation director ChrisHauge serves up some electric work, produced via Halo Pictures. Splicedthroughout the narrative, it never proves over-intrusive, and always adds tothe film's pace and energy.

Prod cos: b:j films
Aust/NZ dist:
Int'l sales:
Arclight Films
Exec prods:
Richard Sheffield,Gary Hamilton
Jennifer Cluff, BillBennett
Denson Baker
Prod des:
Sam Hobbs
Jane Moran
Johnny Klimek, ReinholdHeil
Main cast:
Sean Kennedy, RichardWilson, Ho Thi Lu, Thomas Campbell, Tony Hawk