Bouquets and brickbats for Stephen McCallum’s crime drama ‘1%’ in Toronto

Ryan Corr in ‘1%’. 

Critics found a lot to like as well as several faults with Stephen McCallum’s debut feature 1%, which had its world premiere in the Discovery section of the Toronto International Film Festival.

Matt Nable’s performance as a former criminal and leader of a violent motorbike gang in the crime drama was highly praised in the first batch of reviews.

However some critics questioned the predictable plot and the under-developed female characters.

Celluloid Dreams is handling the international sales for the film scripted by Nable which co-stars Ryan Corr, Josh McConville, Aaron Pedersen, Abbey Lee and Simone Kessell, produced by Jamie Hilton and Michael Pontin. Icon will release in Australia.

Nable plays Knuck, who resumes his post as president of the Copperheads Motorcycle Club after a three-year stretch in jail. Corr is Paddo, who ran the club in Knuck’s absence, recruiting new members and finding new sources of cash. Lee is Paddo’s girlfriend Katrina and Kessell is Knuck’s wife Hayley.

Trouble erupts when Paddo’s younger brother, the developmentally disabled Skink (McConville), gets caught stealing a heroin stash from rival gang members the Devils. Their leader Sugar (Pedersen) puts a price on Skink’s head.

The Hollywood Reporter’s Justin Lowe described the film as more of a melodrama than a crime drama, but opined: “The subject matter alone is almost enough to assure viewer interest, making continued festival play and even commercial release on some scale appear inevitable.”

Lowe said Nable has the hulking physique and intimidating stare of a career criminal, bringing a palpable menace to Knuck, while Corr clearly has more to offer than what’s revealed by the ill-fated role of Paddo but is held back by the script’s inclination toward martyrisation.

Canadian critic Scene Creek’s Dani Saad found the film a bit heavy on the overt Shakespearean themes that frequent male-dominated gang films but said McCallum creates a vivid world and the characters are layered enough to make the themes, however well-worn, carry weight.

“While the film lacks originality, a taut script and excellent performances make this self-contained story of power, brotherhood, and betrayal a successful debut for Stephen McCallum,” Saad observed.

CineVue’s Chris Machell rated the “hyper-masculine fable” enjoyable and occasionally compelling, but also predictable and lacking the depth to elevate its characters and their relationships above the rote.

Machell praised Nable’s standout performance as he invests Knuck with a “throbbing rage that threatens to bubble over at any second. He’s a bloody-minded mule, openly prepared to cut off his nose to spite his face, and out of sheer stubbornness wrecks a business deal with a rival gang that Paddo set up at great cost.”

Kessell brings an authentic presence to her character, which somewhat obscures the clichés, while Katrina is a paper-thin Lady MacBeth.

The critic also said there’s  great deal of fun to be had watching “leather-clad chopper heads knock seven bells of shit out of each other, back lit by enormous bonfires. “