Ruben Guthrie (Blu-ray) (2015)

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Released 18-Nov-2015

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy / Drama Featurette-Making Of-The Making of Ruben Guthrie
Featurette-Q&A with Patrick Brammall & Brendan Cowell
Music Video
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2015
Running Time 93:30 (Case: 92)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Brendan Cowell

Madman Entertainment
Starring Patrick Brammall
Jack Thompson
Robyn Nevin
Abbey Lee
Alex Dimitriades
Harriet Dyer
Yvonne Cowell
Jeremy Sims
Aaron Bertram
Brenton Thwaites
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $24.95 Music Sarah Blasko

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
English DTS HD Master Audio 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes, Minor smoking
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

††† Just as 1971ís Wake in Fright explored Australiaís alcoholic culture, 2015ís Ruben Guthrie is a contemporary feature film concerned with the national fondness for booze, poignantly examining the ill effects of binge drinking in Aussie culture. Written and directed by Australian actor Brendan Cowell (Last Cab to Darwin, Beneath Hill 60), this is a witty, insightful observation of the human condition, and a relevant coming-of-age dramedy.

††† The titular Ruben Guthrie (Patrick Brammall) is a high-flying Sydney advertising executive with a lavish beachfront residence and a beautiful Czech fiancťe named Zoya (Abbey Lee). But Rubenís predilection for hard partying threatens his wellbeing, with a drunken leap off the roof resulting in a broken arm, but heís blissfully ignorant of his precarious situation. However, Ruben is forced to re-assess his life when Zoya chooses to leave Australia, delivering an ultimatum: If he can give up booze for one year, she will give him another chance. Compelled to admit that heís an addict, Ruben goes cold turkey and signs up for AA, determined to win back his fiancťe. The task is not as easy as he imagines, though - all of his best advertising work was done whilst on drugs, his old mate Damian (Alex Dimitriades) returns to his life wanting to party, and his parents (Robyn Nevin, Jack Thompson) are dedicated wine drinkers trying to convince their son to indulge.

††† Originally a stage play published in 2008, this is a semi-autobiographical tale for Cowell, who wrote the play after a dark time in his life during which he fell victim to alcoholism. Itís a bold story to tell, as it shows just how difficult it is to go cold turkey in Australia, where drinking is considered a vital part of national culture. The easily offended may be repelled by the movieís content, though, as Ruben Guthrie is full of profanity and crude dialogue, and Cowellís views on Australiaís destructive drinking culture are not exactly savoury. To the writer-directorís credit, he does an efficient job of establishing Rubenís character, opening the movie with a hard partying scene reminiscent of The Wolf of Wall Street, and the storytelling is sure-footed for a first-time feature filmmaker. Sarah Blaskoís original music also works really well, and the flick doesnít outstay its welcome at 93 minutes in length. Less successful, however, is the portrayal of Rubenís new love interest Virginia (Harriet Dyer), who does come across as a bit of a clichť in the long run.

††† Ruben Guthrie does wear its theatre origins on its sleeve, with the majority of the picture taking place in low-key locales - houses, bars and AA meetings - but Cowell does take advantage of the cinematic medium, collaborating with cinematographer Simon Harding to create a stylish, European-looking flick, recognising the value of close-ups to effectively capture performances. Since Cowell is an actor himself, he has the good sense to let the actors do their thing without intrusive visual gimmicks. The pictureís aesthetics are undoubtedly bolstered by the gorgeous Sydney scenery, with sweeping shots of the harbour and picturesque views, and the sun rarely shines brightly, making for a dim colour palette that suits the tone of the story. Itís buoyed by an ensemble of fine thespians as well, led by Brammall who immerses himself into the titular role with remarkable conviction, while Thompson and Nevin are enormously believable as Rubenís self-absorbed parents. And as Rubenís beloved Zoya, Abbey Lee (last seen as one of Immortan Joeís wives in Mad Max: Fury Road) makes a positive impression, espousing a Czech accent thatís wholly believable.

††† Much like the underrated Manny Lewis, perhaps Ruben Guthrie might have been more warmly received if it wasnít an Australian flick, as aspects of the production are unique to Aussie culture and may alienate foreign viewers. But the messages and morals of the narrative are universal, and the malleable premise could even be re-jigged for remakes. Even though Cowellís directorial eye may not be perfect, this is a strong theatrical debut for the actor, with worthwhile humour and involving drama. And best of all, itís not preachy or pretentious, though it can be heavy and depressing. In final analysis, Ruben Guthrie is worth checking out.

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Transfer Quality


††† Madman present Cowellís directorial debut in its original widescreen aspect ratio of 1.78:1, via the MPEG-4 AVC video codec. Not much technical information is available, but Ruben Guthrie was visibly lensed on a few different digital cameras, and the image can be inconsistent. Footage from lower-quality sources (including smartphone shots) lack refinement, and I did notice some posterization and banding in a few shots, most notably in a dream/fantasy sequence and during a party at the end. Still, for a low-budget Aussie production, it does look pretty good.

††† As Cowell explains in the extras, Sydney was going through a patch of bad weather during filming, thus colours look muted, without much in the way of vibrancy. It often looks overcast, though this contributes to the movieís atmosphere and mood. Although I did not view the flick during its theatrical run, I imagine that this is an accurate representation of the cinematic experience, and itís thankfully stable, free of deal-breaking video issues.

††† Since this is a digital production, and the digital intermediate presumably wasnít as high-tech as a Hollywood movie, detail and sharpness are good but not great, with a certain smoothness that does become apparent at times. Still, close-ups look consistently impressive, and textures are strong on clothing and couches. Itís a fine transfer, probably as good as can be expected from the source, but itís not reference quality.

††† Only English subtitles are available. They are yellow, which is a tad odd, but they otherwise present no issues.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


††† Two audio tracks are available on this disc: an English DTS-HD MA 5.1 track, and an alternate English DTS-HD MA 2.0 track, so you can pick whatever suits your home theatre set-up. I was only concerned with the 5.1 track, and I found it thoroughly impressive, especially for a movie of this ilk. This is a dialogue-driven flick, and Iím happy to report that the dialogue comes through with maximum precision and clarity. Itís mixed effectively, never becoming overwhelmed by anything else in the sound mix.

††† Ruben Guthrie does have some party scenes featuring loud music, and said tunes are bombastic, sounding wonderful through my home theatre set-up. The original score is also effective, with sufficient oomph to create a sense of atmosphere. Thereís not much noticeable surround activity or subwoofer use, but the occasion rarely calls for it. For what this is, itís a fine track that does whatís reasonably expected of it.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


††† Only a few short video pieces are included here, but better than nothing.

The Making of Ruben Guthrie (HD; 11:43)

††† A fairly standard-order featurette on the making of the movie, which mostly involves the stars talking about their interpretation of their character and the material, while Cowell discusses how the stage play came about and how he felt about directing a feature for the first time. Itís not long enough to provide a great deal of insight, but itís worth watching nevertheless.

Q&A with Patrick Brammall & Brendan Cowell (HD; 8:08)

††† Brammall and Cowell sit down for some friendly bantering as they ask each other some questions. They provide no insight into the production at all, with the pair mostly going off on tangents and riffing on each other.

Music Video (HD; 3:58)

††† The song title is not actually specified, but itís one of the songs from the movie, performed here with clips of the movie being shown.

Theatrical Trailer (HD; 1:55)

††† And thereís a trailer as well, just to top off the package.

Madman Propaganda (HD; 9:05)

††† Another reel of ads and trailers from Madman. Thereís an anti-piracy commercial, and trailers for Partisan, That Sugar Film, Tim Wintonís The Turning and Save Your Legs.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

† † Ruben Guthrie has not been released anywhere else in the world on Blu-ray. Buy local.


††† I enjoyed Ruben Guthrie more than I had anticipated based on the lukewarm reception, and I don't feel it got a fair shake. It's worth watching, especially for those who have studied the play in school.

††† Madman's Blu-ray release is respectable. Video and audio are fine, and there's a reasonable selection of special features. Recommended.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Callum Knox (I studied biology)
Saturday, January 23, 2016
Review Equipment
DVDPlayStation 4, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 42LW6500. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationLG BH7520TW
SpeakersLG Tall Boy speakers, 5.1 set-up, 180W

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