April 6, 2022

Midweek Mention... The Magician

Midweek Mention... The Magician
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THE MAGICIAN (2005) is an Australian mockumentary written, directed by and starring Scott Ryan as Ray Shoesmith, an amoral hitman who allows film student Max to document his life. Across three disparate stories we come to understand but never sympathise with the calculating, violent and dangerous Ray, but what puts this film head and shoulders above movies treading a similar path is a truly memorable performance from our charismatic lead as well as a 'so black even light can't escape' style sense of humour which runs throughout the lean 1hr 25 minutes running time. Completely unknown to me and a bit of a gem in my humble opinion, check it out.  

Transcript

The Magician

Sidey:

All righty then how are you nominated for him? I'd never heard of,

Howie: Yeah. And neither did I because I was rummaging, not in my trousers as usual at my desk. I was rummaging in my attic slash office. And I've got this tub of DVDs. Remember those things you used to buy and see. In it's foil still

Reegs: Oh, a rich and

Howie: original was

Sidey: first pressing

Howie: first pressing from 2005 is the film, the magician.

And it said

Reegs: you'd bought this earlier and you'd never

Howie: it I paid the price tags on it. I don't remember

Reegs: Can I have a guess? Where was it from

Howie: No

fault a shop. What I've mentioned previously, which is in Glasgow,

Reegs: there was something good.

Sidey: 6, 8 11 99. 17

pounds

Howie: 18 99 I don't remember buying this.

So

Sidey: that's nearly the

budget of this

movie

Howie: also nearly the box of things taking so

Reegs: Well, we can get onto that. It is a low budget thing. We said the name of it, the magician

Howie: If you talk to the magician into Google, you're going to get a few hits. So for clarification, this is the magician by

Reegs: Scott Ryan is the

Howie: guy who plays Ray shoe Smith.

Reegs: Yeah. And it's an Australian mockumentary crime drama.

Sidey: Yeah.

Howie: very odd atmosphere throughout.

It's like a dark comedy. That's rather.

Awful

awkward. You kind of get drawn in and also at the same time, seems like it's not really a film.

Completely Like you said, a documentary, but it just feels so when it

Reegs: well. It's such a convincing portrayal of the main guy, Ray, who should we walk through the plot? And then we can kind of talk about it because a lot of stuff emerges about Ray.

That's interesting to talk about in the movie.

Dan: what's interesting is they've accepted the budget of the film by using it as kind of part of the plot and saying it's a student film them.

Howie: Yeah. By his neighbor max who's befriended him.

Reegs: yeah, but it does actually start with a pretty big moment because he's voiced to camera youngish guy, shaved head he's describing, waiting for someone to arrive and he's going to give them the good news he says, and it's, you know, it's not really clear what's going on, but then we discover we're in a garage.

Cause the garage door closes. And when it closes. Suddenly, he just stands up. He shoots him three times in a short rage bang, bang, bang, and then three times on the floor, bang, bang, bang in the head,

Dan: At this point, I've said to the wife and kids, look, maybe this one isn't for

Reegs: it's like it's sort of a Mitt. It's it's very much a somebody who's done this before.

It's a military style. Hit bang, bang, bang,

Howie: and it, and it's not glamorized in a film footage way. It's yeah. The illumination comes from a crappy light that most of it actually comes from the gun as

Reegs: muzzle flash,

Howie: Yeah. And it's not like amplified gun sounds.

It's just true to life. Horrible.

Reegs: It almost sounds like a cap gun, but actually if you ever hear real life gunshots on film, they do often Yeah. No, but they don't sound like the 30 deep noises. Do they, if you ever hear him in like viral videos and whatnot, the cracks more than anything. Anyway. And then we're in, in the car with the guy and we're listening to the radios, listening to like a late night chat and he's tall. Talking to camera.

Dan: yeah, really calm. And it it's, it cuts a lot. Doesn't this film you, you get moments of, and I thought it was going to be as violent in this all the way through. So straight away on bite my nails and thinking off, but it's not like that the whole way through it just gives you a taste of who this guy

Sidey: is

Dan: and the kind of character,

Reegs: there's sort of three main storylines and it's interspersed with him talking to camera basically.

So like you say, you get to know him and there's two storylines that sort of mirror each other and then a separate one in the middle that just goes to show you a bit more about how Ray operates.

Howie: Yeah. He's a, he's a very strange mix of Dan alluded to it. You think it's going to be super violent, but he has that volatility, but he has a level of charisma. So he's, it's not a lock stock, always a bit of a rough diamond sort of thing. He is either. He has this horrible kind of take on the world because of what it's never really explained a, although you understand his past is that of, he was in the army. I think that was his past.

But at the same time, he talks with genuine endearment of the fact that once max, the cinematographer or documentary maker talks to him to say, you've got a daughter RIA, Brittany.

And he shows that

Reegs: Well, no, that's Tony that's Tony also has a daughter. We picked Tony up. He's following this guy, Tony. He's looking at him out there. He's smoking a cigarette. He's a, they're just having a. He farts and he asks the guy, did you get that on the thing? And they're all laughing. He's talking about buying surgical gloves in bulk and how much cheaper it is to do that.

And then he follows the guy, Tony outside the multi-story car park and he sort of coerced him to get into the car.

Dan: Well, he forced him a gun.

Reegs: It makes him put on handcuffs, doesn't he? And he puts him in the. Oh, well that then it cuts out that we don't actually know what happens to Tony Dewey. He puts

Dan: no, not at this stage. So, but we, we learned that, you know, we've, we've got a Hitman whose, whose neighbor is filming him. As he's at

Sidey: he wants

it he wants it

documented in case he dies. So he's

Reegs: Well that comes out at the end. Doesn't it? Yeah.

Howie: Once

Reegs: But, you know, it's just introducing all the central characters. So he's abducted this guy, Tony, that's a job for him.

He's also met this guy, Ben, who he's told to run out of town. It's supposed to take him out to Sydney. He's not supposed to be in town. His default is he talked to the cops. No, he's questioning him. He's got this way of like being very jovial one minute and then being very menacing in a, it reminded me.

No, it's so much about the performance, but tonally a bit like dead man's shoes or something

Sidey: like that.

Reegs: Yeah. I'm in that air of menace,

Dan: can flip a switch, you know, he's the kind of guy you do not know what you're going to say, how he's going to react to that.

And And low for the most part, the communication between the camera man and him is very friendly and he seems more than comfortable with the fact that he's seeing this guy doing super violent things. He doesn't ever seem to be fearing for his own safety too much. I think he understands the, the lines and the expectations that he has.

And so he's at times really. Probing and questioning and, and almost taking the piss out of him a little bit,

Howie: Yeah. Well it,

Dan: which I thought was dangerous. You know,

Howie: it's particularly dangerous. There is a scene where I was thinking, oh God, it was so tense where he's questioning whether Clint Eastwood was

Reegs: oh this is amazing. I love to this scene

Howie: whether it was in the

Reegs: driving along with Tony. So after they've, he's threatened Ben and sent him off to Sydney, we cut. Cut, cut back to the other story that started with this guy, Tony being abducted and their cha it's max and Ray are in the car having this conversation about the dirty dozen.

And he's saying Clint Eastwood was in the dirty dozen and they get, it's a really funny scene because he stops the car and he gets the guy out of the boot and he's like,

Eastwood in a dirt. He

Dan: Lee, Marvin was in here going for

Reegs: yeah. He's got to throw all the names

Dan: know Clem wasn't in it. He's not fucking happy about it. And he still goes, well, he doesn't know where the fuck he's talking about.

What'd you ask him for

Reegs: he opens the boot. It's brilliant. He says he just opened the boot. It says, have you seen the day? He doesn't go. It goes the movie. And he's like, no, the fucking musical. Yeah, he's really pissed off when he says that Clint Eastwood wasn't in it.

Yeah.

And then it's intersperse them with shots of, of Ray then talking about it's another time, but he's talking, he's saying the cops can't track anything if they don't find the body. So there's this implied menace where he's talking about the mechanics of his profession, very sort of coldly and openly.

It's quite

Howie: And every, so often these dry log, you keep thinking every so often Tony in the car is going to be bumped off in a field.

Reegs: Well eventually takes him out and he makes him dig his own grave. And Tony, isn't a very good actor considering that's what he's trying to do. Dig his own grave. Eventually Tony tries to bribe him off. He says, he's got 80 grand in cash stashed at his father's farm in Sydney.

So then they end up on this bizarre road trip.

Howie: Where he gives him his

Reegs: not before because Tony has got a bit scared. He's pissed himself. So he won't let them in the car. So max then decides

Sidey: to give him

Reegs: his, his underwear. I mean, it's, it is as silly as it sounds in the middle of this like really terrifying seed

Dan: and yeah, and that's because he has a little bit of sympathy for him and he knows that he gets claustrophobic in the back of the car and he goes, look, just let him sit in the back.

And he allows him to do this and he. Again, I was just thinking how kind of brave the camera guy was to go and sort of probe and keep asking, even though he'd made it clear, he wasn't, he wasn't comfortable doing it, but he did. And they kind of all rolled off. They even stop and get something to eat at some point.

And that guy. You know, as a good thing about what you want and he wants

Reegs: what's,

Dan: garlic on it. He wasn't, you know, for, for somebody who's just been digging his own

Reegs: Ray orders. What sounds like the girliest drink of all time, like it's iced coffee, but full of milk and sugar and all sorts of stuff.

And yeah, it's, it's a funny moment.

Dan: and as you say, there's these two kinds of stories.

So he abducted kind of two people, or he's, he's been told to, you know, get rid of two people and

Howie: it's it's interspersed with, with a third one about a stolen piece of Hi-Fi equipment that

max has

Reegs: this shows the bond between max and and Ray, and it shows a bit of that, about their relationship.

And he knows who stolen some stuff from his flats, a junkie called Aetna that used to live. So they go round to visit Edna and he promised, he says, just go and talk to him. And that sorts of raised sort of

Howie: violence, no violence.

Reegs: It's really well shot this because you can't see it, but you can, the way it's framed, you can see a little bit inside the house and you can see Ray and you can see them talking.

It's really fucking obvious. He's just been told to piss off So he comes back to the car and he's smiling and he's like right now, we're going to do it my way. And he takes a baseball bat.

Dan: He's got this kind of.

Great. Cool. Look, isn't he with it? With the glasses, the shaved head and everything. He hasn't got the, the Mohawk, but he's, he's otherwise a mean kind of looking character, but

Reegs: it's not especially big though, is he?

But he carries himself

Dan: he's got that kind of smile and that look in his eyes that just says.

Oh, fucking do anything like, you know, I am not thinking about anything

Reegs: Well, we see that in this scene because he walks back max promises, he says, do the least amount of violence

Sidey: possible.

Reegs: And so he rings the doorbell and the door opens.

It's the same shot we saw before from the conversation. As soon as the door opens, it just hits whoever it is with a baseball bat. And then you see their feet at the floor and the feet are kind of dragged in like you're in a horror movie and the door shuts, and then it cuts to. Piling out with his equipment and

Howie: apologizing to say, say, sorry, sorry.

Reegs: yeah.

Howie: And he, he, I think he says the value of these goods perhaps doesn't match what you stole. So he promises a grand or something like that.

Dan: He's got to give him two grand in one week,

Reegs: and then kind of intersperse with that as well. We get him commenting on the war on drugs, which is a sort of central thing, because this is, he works kind of, he's a Hitman for the drug agent, you know, for the drug trade.

And he's talking about. How pointless it is, he's arguing for the decriminalization of all drugs, but it's not in a sort of, it's not a compassionate thing or a societal thing. It's just about all it's going to do is thin out the dickheads is what he says. You deserve to die if you take care of winners is literally what he says.

Dan: Yeah. Yeah. If you're dumb enough to do that, you

Sidey: said you don't

Dan: enough to die. So he doesn't give a fuck overweight.

Yeah. And then we we've got this scene where you really don't know if he's going to kill this guy or not because they get to the father's house and he's he, it turns out the 80

Reegs: oh, well, so hang on just before they get there, they have this really weird.

Where, right. Basically it sounds like they're fucking, and it's dark. Did you remember this? And, and then it goes in and he's doing sit-ups

and cause at one point, even when it, when it's dark, he goes, oh, I think my balls are hanging out as he's doing the press-ups

because a few times there is a really weird sexual relationship or sexual interest implied between the clearly homosexual max who's the film student and.

Yeah, because he talks to him about Mardi Gras. And then there's this scene at the hotel with the three of them where Tony's trying to convince max to let him go. And then they have a weird conversation about, they have a conversation where he says, it's weird. If you try and sleep naked, would you, if we were in a bed, I would think that was

Howie: weird

Reegs: I've known all of you a long time. If you said you wanted to sleep naked next to me, I would think that was weird.

Sidey: PR Andre of this podcast always sleeps naked. So have you shared a room, with Pete sleeps naked? Yeah, that's

true.

Dan: That's true story. I always snuggle up.

Reegs: And you can't, I feel in the room with Pete, you can't say that

Howie: do you? No, no, no. I wouldn't have a problem in the room. I wouldn't have a problem with nudity in the. It's if they're sharing a bed, I won't want to share a bed with another man.

Reegs: I mean. That's what I mean.

Howie: I'd be like, wow.

Reegs: I think I'd feel a little bit, am I, you're all looking at me like I'm weird now. I'm weird. Am I? So, cause I would feel a bit

Sidey: yeah, well like share change rooms and stuff? It's just,

Reegs: Yeah, but

Dan: yeah no. Okay. Getting into bed together.

Naked is, is probably um

Howie: a bridge

Dan: w w

Sidey: who was in the room,

who was

in the room.

with Swayze when he was Like.

it was it norm.

Dan: Yeah,

Reegs: that's why, I mean, that's why I thought you were describing with Pete though. It's like, as soon as he gets in the room, like all the clothes come off and he's just like wandering around

Dan: trying to buy his own

Howie: Tonight is your night cold. May bubbles,

Reegs: go in. I've exposed myself as being a bit weird about it then

Howie: Yeah.

Sidey: I think

Dan: I think it's

Sidey: no one really wants to see Pete naked,

Dan: particularly when you don't know people that well, and you're, you're sharing a room with one other guy who's handcuffed down there where in your boxer shorts. It was a weird one just to get into bed naked and, and

Reegs: well he starts saying it's weird to the camera, man.

He's like, I lent you my boxer shorts.

Dan: Yeah. So you

Reegs: up.

Dan: up. Yeah.

Reegs: And he's really, it's another funny scene, but anyway. Yeah. So they, you were going to say, damn, they

Dan: following that they, they find the 80 grand, which is an 80 grand it's well, it's 80 grand. It's as good as 80 grand because it's pure uncut Coke or half a kilo of.

And

Howie: he, you get into this plea bargaining situation where he's

Dan: I feared the worst there for, for this guy because he didn't seem to be the kind of man that wanted to be tricked in, in any way, shape or form. But he lets him go doesn't he, he lets him go off

Howie: run down the line with his

Reegs: I still wasn't sure. Even when he was halfway down the lane, whether he was going to shoot him in the back

Dan: Yeah. Or they were going to follow him in the car or

Howie: And did, was it immediately after this? There's a little interlude screen that says he returned. Where's that at the very end, it was this point that just as he returned to his strange wife and all that

Dan: reconciled and is now living with his daughter and wife again, which you

Howie: Melbourne or Sydney or wherever it was

Reegs: because there was a scene earlier where we'd already learned that Ray has a daughter that he's kind of estranged from.

And so did Tony and he's trying to connect. In the car, it's the scene where they're doing the food and he doesn't want to connect at all, but until he says what car, what car do you want any straightaway engaged in studies like Porsche turbo, four wheeled relate, straightway engaged in it.

Howie: He wants a Commodore, hold it as a Holden, as a fucking proper mad max car or those

Reegs: it just shows how sort of

Dan: but th that other kind of story that's similar.

It doesn't end in such a positive way. And it's almost his mate. He was a guy that he'd known for a little while and he'd given him a chance to get out of town. Then he found him again in Melbourne and he goes, well, Right. Yep. Where were we getting out of here now? Where do you want to go right now? We're not fucking around right now.

You want to go? And it's, it's quite a chilling scene. Isn't it is they,

Howie: well, it isn't, it isn't to begin with because they stop and that goes for shit. And then they have that conversation about eating shit.

Reegs: Yeah. Yeah.

Howie: which is just bizarre.

Reegs: It's a

good question. Cause he it's, it's a question he raises. Is, would you, how much would you eat your own shit for? And I think he says a hundred

Dan: No, he says, how much would you eat a bowler, a bowl ship four. And then he asked who shit, my shit, because my shit is a lot different than your shit. And he goes, yo cereal bowl.

Reegs: you like,

Dan: Oh definitely.

Howie: K

Reegs: for your own shit and 500 K for it. So it's

Dan: I'm not agreeing with the price, but I'm praying that, you know, if I add.

Sidey: if

Dan: If

I absolutely

Reegs: that is. It's about 30 K 30,000 quid. Is it quit? Not in Britain,

Dan: but yeah, no, if you are absolutely forced to eat a bowl of shit, you want it to be your own shit? Not somebody else's

Sidey: I Don't know

Howie: No, you, you T if someone said you got two bowls of shit, your own or someone else's

Reegs: It depends though. It depends when what you've eaten.

Sidey: I don't think I'd be capable of taking any shit.

Reegs: No. Anyway, what a horrible conversation, but it's funny when they

Dan: Well, that's, that's what the filmmaker says in here. He goes, I wouldn't eat any shit anyway. And he's kind of tricked him into saying, yeah. Shit for a thousand, a hundred K or whatever. And then your man gets out of Benny gets out of

Reegs: well, he goes off for a shit. He comes back and he hasn't got his jacket because he used it to wipe his ass.

Dan: And then, and then three seconds after that, he's dead because he's walked in front and he's just, he's just

Reegs: It's the same sort of military style hit that we saw at the

Howie: beginning.

Reegs: It's brilliantly done because they do it all in camera. So because the guy Ray just steps across the frame probably for less than a second. And the guy has got to apply a blood patch or release something on his back because it looks very effective.

Doesn't it? I don't know how much this movie was made for,

Dan: three grand.

Reegs: this is honestly like the kind of thing where, when you've got a charismatic lead like this, it like it's inspiring. I think for filmmakers, because

Dan: And this guy hadn't acted before either. I mean, it was just a case of necessity putting himself in front of the camera because he wanted to make a film and he's on a, on a hell of a budget and everything. So I thought that was, you know,

Sidey: yeah, I was very confused cause it was you're right. It was three grand, but it was that because there was an original. Just half hour version.

Howie: I was looking at that

Sidey: which was three grand and then it got a 300,330,000 government grant to make it into the full

Howie: I think the 300,000 went to war. Reedit

Sidey: Yeah,

Howie: post-production and their marketing,

Reegs: they put a couple of extra scenes in

Howie: Okay. Well, I was gonna say at the very end, you get like a good-bye piece where he says to him, take care of blah, blah, blah.

Only released, does he state at this point? That

Sidey: she returned to his home?

planet?

Howie: yeah.

Reegs: Yeah. He does know it's it's crazy. It's grim because he's sort of being grim about his own death. He says it's basically, this'll only come out when I die.

That's the agreement.

Dan: And, and so we get to see that and assume then, then he's, he's dead

Sidey: That's

Reegs: when he walks off into the crowd, outside Victoria station, I

Howie: think

Dan: And there's a, there's a, another little kind of tying up scene isn't there where it just says, or, or notice he says that he was shot dead outside his home or, or whatever, six months

Sidey: later.

Yeah

Howie: Yeah. So now the thing I was reading about this was, it was pretty much on.

Reegs: really? Yeah.

Howie: And that they found it. That's why a lot of it had to be re edited and cut because max, the filmmaker struggled with some of the quips and lines that Ray came out with at times. So a lot of it was unscripted and that's why it seemed quite, you could say looking now that you know that you can go, yeah, it does seem quite awkward, but I think the awkwardness came because the scene.

Calling for it. Like it was quite tense or it was overbearing or it was comically funny, like the fart gag and things like that. So yeah, so that's what apparently the write-up does about it.

Reegs: I'd never heard of this. Had you heard of

Sidey: this

Reegs: before? I was surprised because this was right up my alley

Sidey: There's also a TV series spinoff based on,

Howie: I've seen clips of it

Sidey: based on Ray um Mr. Yeah. Mr. Or the in-between. is, as it was when

Reegs: Yeah.

Sidey: of it,

Reegs: Briefcase, wanker. This is great because it's character study stuff, isn't it?

Because you don't warm to this guy, but you do understand him and he makes you laugh and yeah, it's it, it just, it wouldn't work if he Scott, Ryan, wasn't so unbelievable in

Dan: I E he was able to pub it. It did smack her to me of a film called a man bites dog.

Which was an earlier, I think Belgian or French film.

And it followed a documentary film crew as they follow a serial killer. It's all in black and white, this one. And then, then the idea, I don't know whether he's seen

Reegs: it goes very absurd. That one though, doesn't it? Because they meet another serial killer. Who's also making a documentary as well. It's a bit of a different, I preferred the sort of grounded character study in a way of this.

I, this was like a real surprise to

Howie: It was, it was bizarre that you found yourself. Well, I did. Green with his sentiments about the killing of Benny I've enabled it. So that there'll be no suffering. It was going to happen. So I've done it. It's like I've put him out of his misery it's it was straight. And you're like, oh yeah.

Yes, fuck. I can't agree with that.

Reegs: There's a lot of that sort of psychopathic thinking that ends up having good values come out of it sort of

accidentally.

Dan: well, he knows if, if somebody he's been told to make a hit on turns up again, six months later, then his reputation and his own life.

It's fucked as well, you know? So

Reegs: it's mostly about mercy in his mind to

Dan: well, he toy, he toys with it and he plays with it in his mind. You can see he's is really you know, torn between letting him go and not letting him go. But then.

Reegs: no, I don't think he is.

Dan: Well,

I didn't think he was, but he, he does let one of the guys go doesn't he?

Reegs: Yeah. Different circumstances.

Dan: So it made me think that he must have been thinking about it, given this guy a chance previously. And I think that's what, that's, what kind of signed his own death sentence, really? That the fact that he turned up again and he wasn't going to get away twice.

Reegs: Great. One. How are your pick from 2005

Dan: DVD collection

Howie: I've no recollection of gaining it, buying it. I'm now going to use that as my midweek storm,

Reegs: We've probably, I know we've got a few Australian listeners. They probably know all about this film, I assume. So we finally caught on 17 years later

Dan: Yeah. And it's, it's one of those films. I think we'll continue to find an audience because of the subject matter because of the way that it's been filmed.

Although though it's, it was obviously a budget thing. It had that Blair, which

Sidey: kind of,

Dan: you know, Yeah, it's got that kind of feel about it. So there's a pace, there's a, there's an anxiety, just the, that the cam corridor in the way that his film brings to the, to the film and the performances. Particularly from the Hitman from Scott, Scott, Ryan, I thought he was brilliant.

I thought he just got one of those faces. We will start quality.

Reegs: it's not all jerky stuff though is well framed a lot of the core sequences of very well like choreographed considering it's single ropey camera and like often just two actors in the frame.

Dan: That's right. Yeah. Check it out.

Reegs: Yeah, definitely.