Blackrock: Ricko turns nasty

Blackrock: Ricko turns nasty
WARNING: This clip contains coarse language
WARNING: This clip contains violence
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Tracy (Bojana Novakovic) is being passed over the heads of her friends at a party. Toby (Heath Ledger) reminds Jared (Laurence Breuls) that he is meant to be going out with Toby’s sister, not flirting with Tracy. They start pushing each other around and Toby throws a punch. Ricko (Simon Lyndon) steps in and things get so nasty that Jared has to call him off. Jared storms off.

Summary by Sandy George.

Heath Ledger plays a small but significant role in Blackrock, which was his first feature. Blackrock believably depicts the often confusing and unpredictable period between childhood and adulthood, when personality is being formed and big life decisions made.

Blackrock synopsis

Jared (Laurence Breuls) stages a welcome-home party for his mate Ricko (Simon Lyndon), back from up north. During the booze-fuelled evening, Jared gets into a disagreement with his girlfriend’s brother, Toby (Heath Ledger), who accuses Jared of paying too much attention to another girl, Tracy (Bojana Novakovic). Ricko gets so violent with Toby while defending Jared that Jared has to call him off. Clearly annoyed, Jared leaves the party. While he sits smoking, high above the beach, Toby and Tracy come into view below and start making out. Jared’s amusement turns to shock when three other partygoers arrive and brutally rape her. Despite Tracy’s calls for help during and after the assault, Jared flees. Next morning, his mother Diane (Linda Cropper) wakes Jared and tells him a girl has been found murdered. Jared tells the police and his girlfriend Rachel (Jessica Napier) very little, but reveals to Rachel how distressed he is that he did nothing to help Tracy.

Four boys, including Toby, are arrested and charged with sexual assault. Tempers flare when Jared tells Diane that he hasn’t told the police all he knows. Jared goes to the police station but meets Ricko at the front door. Ricko says the police are trying to pin the murder on him and asks Jared to be his alibi. Later in the day Ricko admits to Jared just how involved he was.

Blackrock curator's notes

This drama includes very tough subject matter but, at its core, it is about a teenager torn between doing the right thing and being loyal to his mates. It is a work of fiction inspired by the brutal murder of 14-year-old Leigh Leigh in sand dunes near Newcastle, New South Wales, in late 1989. Several years later, Nick Enright was commissioned by a local theatre company to develop a play. Director Steven Vidler saw that play and he and Enright, with producer David Elfick, made this film.

Blackrock is Vidler’s first feature as a director, and a decade later it was still his only one. His long career as an actor would have helped him to draw the terrific performances from the young ensemble cast. The film’s depiction of mainly working-class teenagers letting off steam with sex and drink and rock 'n’ roll is very real and dynamic because of the fluid camerawork, the lively soundtrack and the energetic choreography of the actors. The film’s style is more classical and composed in the scenes of the adult world. Many social issues are explored including youth drinking and family breakdown. It is implied that Jared has been negatively affected by not having a father in his life.

The film earned Enright a peer-judged AWGIE Award from the Australian Writers’ Guild, and was first shown overseas in the Premiere section of the Sundance Film Festival in early 1997. It was also nominated for five AFI Awards, including best film. Blackrock attracted $1.14 million in ticket sales when shown in Australian cinemas in mid-1997, a year in which Shine (1996) and the much lighter film, The Castle (1997), each grossed more than $10 million.

Notes by Sandy George.

Production company:
Palm Beach Pictures
David Elfick
Associate producer:
Catherine Knapman
Nick Enright
Steven Vidler
Steve Kilbey
Laurence Breuls, Justine Clarke, Jeanette Cronin, Linda Cropper, Essie Davis, David Field, Chris Haywood, Harold Hopkins, Heath Ledger, Simon Lyndon, Jessica Napier, Bojana Novakovic (AKA Boyana Novakovich), Rebecca Smart
Produced in association with Polygram Filmed Entertainment. Produced with the assistance of the Australian Film Finance Corporation and the New South Wales Film and Television Office.