Belonging to the lesser known genre of Australian films known as the Fish n Chip Western, A Fistful of Rubles is a B-grade farce currently screening in Australian cinemas. It tells the story of Red Hanson and the One Nation Gang, a group of small time hustlers and con-artists who make a living by harassing ethnic and religious minorities, pedaling climate change denial and rustling voters at election time, for which the Australian Electoral Commission pays them $2.62 per first preference vote.
After a successful heist netting $1.2 million at the 2016 Federal Election, and inspired by news of the Trump Gang’s exploits in the Wild West, Red decides to expand the gang’s operation. Red sets off for the lawless town of Canberra with fellow gang members: demolitions expert Mad Malcolm; gunslinger Killer Culleton; and Ringo Burston, whose purpose remains unclear throughout the movie.
Things begin badly when Killer Culleton, weighed down with excess baggage, is caught in quicksand, forcing Red to cut him loose to prevent the rest of the gang being dragged down with him. Despite this and numerous other setbacks, the gang continues to attract support, recruiting a number of deperados, deplorables and dickheads, as they dynamite their way across the Australian political landscape.
Upon arriving in Canberra, Red and the gang learn of a feud between a family of local landowners, the Liberals, and a railroad company owned by a mysterious businessman known only as Vlad the Russian. The Liberals are looking to protect their own interests and sense of entitlement, while Vlad wants to railroad his way through Western Democracy so that he can exploit his sizeable oil and gas investments, currently stifled by international sanctions.
Red decides to play off one faction against the other by swapping preferences with the Liberals, while at the same time seeking financial patronage from Vlad by trying to convince the townsfolk that a corrupt, warmongering, human-rights-violating, dictatorship is the sort of “strong” leadership that’s needed there.
From here the movie descends into an unauthorised, low-budget ripoff of a Sergio Leonie film, which is itself an unauthorised, low-budget ripoff of an Akira Kurusowa film. Poorly scripted and directed, with lacklustre performances from the cast, A Fistful of Rubles has the artistic merit of a post-Guttenburg Police Academy sequel.
Lacking the special effects budgets of similar productions in the US and Europe, the film resorts to a pedestrian plot line, one-dimensional characters and clichéd dialogue. Slapstick performances from supporting actors Roberts and Culleton provide some comic relief but fail to prevent this production from becoming a thoroughly cringeworthy experience.
One out of five stars.