Sunday, 6 July 2014

Review - Bustin' Down the Door (2009 - Dir. Jeremy Gosch)

The cover promises a colossal rumble combining gangsters, grittiness and surfing, all narrated by Edward Norton. Sadly, it only delivers on the surfing and the Norton narration. This is a low key TV style documentary that charts the rise of surf culture and professional surfing on the beaches of Hawaii in the 1970’s. There’s a bit of ‘handbags’ at one stage, but no shots are fired and the whole thing hardly registers on the gritty scale. That being said, why did I end up enjoying the experience as much as I did?

This is a world I never knew existed. The main characters are now middle aged men, but have lost none of the cocksure bravado that made them surf pioneers, and they tell the story with a passion and optimism that drags you into their tiny little world. Suddenly, Rabbit Bartholomew, PT Townend and Mark Richards are your best buddies as they reminisce about more innocent times and an attitude that revolutionised the sport. It’s not unlike several of your favourite uncles telling tall tales about their youthful exploits, but in a specialised field that no-one else cares about, for instance taxidermy, teabag folding (I care about teabag folding, it's great - evlkeith) or extreme couponing.

There’s some pretty impressive surfing footage of the aforementioned middle aged heroes in their pomp. They do all kinds of tricky moves that I didn’t fully appreciate, usually in slow motion and more often than not, emerging from the inside the heart of a wave, and it’s impressive and often beautiful for the first one hundred times, but thereafter starts to lose its appeal. Don’t get your hopes up, there’s no gritty violence on show, no-one gets bitten by a shark or even stung by a jelly fish. This is documentary making of the slower paced variety, even by the standards of Werner Herzog, although admittedly less interesting.

There are basically only two reasons you’ll like this film; a) you love surfing, or b) you are a sad middled age man and can empathise with these guys as they tell their preposterous tales from their forgotten youth. Watch with non-existent expectations and you may be surprised.

If you like this you could also try:
Waveriders, The Endless Winter - A Very British Surf Movie

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