A chunk of the highly dubious pre-Hollywood life of Errol Flynn (1909 – 1959) is depicted in this awkward Aussie passion project.
Melbourne-born director Russell Mulcahy with a team of writers and producers put forward iffy performances and an atmosphere of phoniness and compromise. Mulcahy has been behind Ozploitation classics (Razorback), memorable music videos (for Duran Duran and others in the ‘80s), a Resident Evil epic and more, but here he can’t make anything click. NIDA graduate star Thomas Cocquerel doesn’t look much like the Hobart-born Errol and plays him less like a roguish rake and more an infuriating jerk. Which indeed he was.
Opening with a 1930 sequence where Errol accompanies a crass American documentary filmmaker (Dan Fogler) and his team on an expedition through the wilds of New Guinea (although the production obviously never left Queensland). We then follow Cocquerel’s lucky-to-be-alive Flynn as he nips down to Sydney to pick up Rex, an old friend located in a poker joint that just happens to be beside a poor FX rendering of the half-built Harbour Bridge. Rex is played by Canadian actor Corey Large (who also co-wrote and co-produced), and there’s a silly sequence where they escape and somehow swindle a boat out of some bit players in an opium den.
Hoping to take the vessel back to New Guinea to find gold (our hero was nearly killed by natives and crocodiles last time, but that’s okay), Errol and Rex are joined by posh Dook Adams (William Moseley from Chronicles Of Narnia) and drunk old salt Charlie (Clive Standen, another Brit) for the dull voyage. Weirdly, they don’t really make it to their destination at all, and instead wind up in Townsville and cause all sorts of would-be-rollicking problems for maliciously Ocker mayor Christian Travers (an uneasily over-the-top David Wenham).
Featuring players from up (Cillian Murphy, Isabel Lucas) and down (Saw refugee Costas Mandylor) the spectrum, the film is drawn from Errol’s autobiography Beam Ends, the last visible signs before a ship sinks – which actually sounds like the movie itself. Why make a movie about the pre-movie-star Errol? Why not tell the story of what happened when he finally got to Tinseltown and became (in)famous with The Adventures Of Robin Hood, Captain Blood and the rest? That would involve filming highlights from his ghostwritten, posthumously published other autobiography My Wicked, Wicked Ways, which is full of lies, exaggerations and nonsense – but then so is this.