Set in the multi-racial suburbs of Sydney, Lebanese-Australian John (George Basha) is released from goal to find his younger brother Charlie (Firass Dirani) caught in the very same world of crime that put him behind bars.
For all the noise and heat generated by The Combination when it launched earlier this year — a copious number of critical raves; the film being temporarily withdrawn from Greater Union’s NSW circuit after a brawl at a Parramatta cinema — it ended up grossing a modest $728,000 nationwide.
So the DVD release is an ideal chance to catch up with a powerful, hard-hitting drama set amid the fractious relationship between Sydney's Lebanese-Australian community and the Anglo-Aussies, with references to the infamous 2005 Cronulla race riots.
Marking a striking directorial debut by David Field, the film revolves around siblings John (George Basha, who wrote the screenplay) and Charlie Morkos (Firass Dirani). Just released after serving 18 months in the slammer, John fears his 17-year-old brother will go down the same dark path. Charlie hangs out with a Lebanese gang led by the reckless Zeus (Ali Haidar), who are engaged in tribal warfare with a bunch of Australian bigots. John’s misgivings are intensified when he discovers Charlie and Zeus are in cahoots with local drug lord Ibo (Michael Denkha). 'I won’t let him screw up the way I did," John assures their fiercely-protective, widowed mother Mary (Doris Younane).
Working as a cleaner at a boxing gym, John falls in love with beautiful blonde Sydney (Clare Bowen), despite the disapproval of her xenophobic parents, who wrongly assume that because he’s of Lebanese background, he must be an unsavoury Muslim. Matters reach a flashpoint after John destroys Charlie’s stash of drugs, culminating in a shattering climax.
Based partly on screenwriter Basha's experiences, the film rings true in the way it portrays the blind prejudice and intolerance on both sides of the racial divide.
Basha and Dirani are terrific as the brothers whose relationship is put to the ultimate test, and they’re well supported by a mostly inexperienced cast.