Originally tempted to describe Mad Bastards as a musical road movie of self discovery (honestly, wouldn't that look great as a movie poster quote?), I changed my mind lest I give you, dear reader, the impression that the film is lighter and more 'self help-y' than it is.
Granted, Brendan Fletcher's film has its lighter moments – mostly in the musical interludes provided by Pigram brothers, Alan and Stephen, as well as Alex Lloyd – but Mad Bastards is a dramatic examination of the role of Australia's indigenous man within his own community.
Twelve year-old Bullet (Lucas Yeeda) has little to do in his remote West Australian town and with no father to adhere to, is finding himself headed toward trouble. A spot of arson the final straw which sees him shipped off to an outback camp run by Aboriginal elders, where the boys in attendance get back to basics and a wake up call.
Texas (Greg Tait), the local lawman and Nella's proxy grandfather, arranged for the boy's removal in the hopes that it's not too late for him to straighten up and fly right. Texas is also attempting to get a men's group up and running in the community, where the men can come and discuss their problems.
And then there's TJ (Dean Dale-Jones), a muscle-bound man with anger management issues and prone to violent outbursts. He's also Nella's father, and when he needs to escape the city and his own demons, he heads for the small town in the hopes of reconnecting with the son he abandoned and quieting the constant anger inside.
Thankfully, writer-director Fletcher isn't at all heavy-handed with his look at three generations of men grappling with the notion of what it is to be a man, the importance of male role models and the need for strong male leadership within the indigenous community. You may come out bruised, but you'll also come out humming those damned catchy Pigram Brothers tunes.