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on July 5, 2000
Like most of the films Russell Crowe made in Australia, Heaven's Burning flies off in directions that you would never have guessed. While it is mainly a romance, it's memorable for its sick sense of humor. This movie revels in the absurd, never taking itself too seriously. The plot is over-the-top, and the actors are smart enough to play their characters straight (with the exception of the vengeful husband, and ex Men-At-Work frontman Colin Hay's verbally abusive, wheelchair-driving hitchhiker). Even the movie's premise is a surprise, and therefore I don't want to reveal it. If you are only familiar with Russell Crowe's American films, Heaven's Burning is a great place to start viewing his Australian filmography. While the ending is a bit predictable and slightly unsatisfying, it is a wild, wild ride up to that point. This movie is kind of the middle of the road, as far as Crowe's characters go. He's not the lovable sweetie of Proof or Sum of Us, and he's not the agressive powerhouse of Romper Stomper or L.A. Confidential. Rather, he's something in between, but just as magnetic. I apologize for my rather vague review, but this movie really needs to seen the first time without any expectations. I will tell you that Crowe sports Elvis sideburns in this film, and that alone is worth seeing.
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on June 19, 1999
Heaven's Burning is a love story. Boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy and girl get into trouble. I don't want to blow the ending for you, but the title is indicative of the fate of our two lovers. Although the lead actors, Russell Crowe (Colin) and Youki Kudoh (Midori) try their best to establish a relationship, the film is too short to support any real character development. The plot is contrived; a young, innocent Japanese woman on her honeymoon with her staid, uninteresting husband, fakes her own kidnapping to be rid of him. Colin comes on the scene as a guy down on his luck and willing to do something illegal to solve his money problems. In a bank heist, for which Colin is the get away driver, Midori is taken hostage. Colin saves her from his companions and they set off across the outback. They are followed by Midori's jilted husband and the robbers who all seek vengence. The finale is fairly predictable and since you don't really get a chance to know these characters, sympathy for them at the end is limited. However, Russell Crowe is superb - you feel his fear when he is cornered in a hotel room by his pursuers, and the violence in that scene was so realistic that I could barely watch. There was a true element of the unpredictable that kept the viewer on the edge of his/her seat. The supporting cast does their job adequately, but in their defense they don't get enough screen time to do their make an impression. I would recommend it only to anyone who is interested in seeing Russell Crowe in an earlier work.
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on June 23, 1999
When my boyfriend picked out this film one Friday night it truthfully didn't look too appealing, but one does things for love. To my surprise though, I greatly enjoyed it and watched it twice, something I rarely do.I would have to agree with the other reviewer of this film that it really only appeals to Crowe fans. But the plot is good if not great. After a while I found myself growing bored of the Midori character. She seemed one dimensional and dull. Crowe is really the one who carried the film, he is a superb actor and brought this film up to a level it wouldn't have been at if not for him. I felt myself growing more and more concerned for him as the movie rolled along. As the other reviewer stated the hotel/torture scene was almost impossible to watch. His was so realistic and authentic. It was refreshing to see a leading man who had so much more going for him than an obsession with his genitals and testosterone. As a woman I get tired of watching male leads who are only concerned with killing and revenge, it was nice to see that he had true feelings for Midori not only an interest in sleeping with her. I would recommend this film to Russel Crowe fans but probably others would find the film dull; which is unfortunate because he is a fantastic actor.
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on November 7, 2000
The person who thought this movie couldn't decide what genre it wanted to be simply has not watched many Australian movies. That IS it's genre! I happened on to this on HBO and couldn't take my eyes off of it. Yes, it's quirky and it works. Russell Crowe is intense and the love scene focused on his face was incredible. I added it to my movie collection as soon as it was available.
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on June 25, 2004
For some reason, revenge tragedies have gotten a bad rap ever since the ancient Greeks stopped writing them. Even Shakespeare's big attempt at a revenge tragedy, Titus Andronicus, generally draws sneers from critics, even though it is a very powerful play with some beautiful poetry (see the film Titus when you get the chance). In a number of ways, Heaven's Burning might be considered a revenge tragedy and it turns out to be surprisingly good.
I'll be the first to admit that this isn't the kind of film that I would normally watch. And the film seemed a non-starter to begin with, with none of the characters seeming particularly interesting to me. Of course, that all changed when Russell Crowe as Colin made his first appearance onscreen. I've seen him in several other films in much higher-profile roles (The Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind, Master and Commander) and I can't honestly say that he made more of an impression on me in those films than he did in this little film that most people have probably never even heard of.
This movie started out extremely slowly and gathered steam as it went along. I was uncertain at first whether I would be able to sit through the whole thing, but when it got to the part where getaway driver Colin bumps off the guy who is about to kill bank robbery hostage Midori (Yoki Kudo) even though she didn't do anything wrong (other than a lot of crying, moaning and whining), I knew I was going to stay tuned until the end. That's one of the things that distinguishes revenge tragedies; the hero does some act that sets in motion most of the other acts that eventually lead to his downfall. In this case, the man killed by Colin has a father and a brother who are not amused. I was reminded of Verdi's opera La forza del destino, where the hero Alvaro accidentally kills the father of the heroine Leonora in the course of an elopement, setting off the chain of events that ends with Alvaro also killing Leonora's hell-bent-on-revenge brother Carlo, who nonetheless manages to kill Leonora just before he dies. Getting back to Heaven's Burning, Midori also plays her part in her ultimate fate by running off and leaving her newlywed and rather boring husband Yukio (Kenji Isomura). Many folks have commented on the racist aspects of the plot; however, the fact that Midori and Yukio are both Japanese adds an additional layer to the story that would not be present otherwise, since Yukio's attempt at revenge is not only motivated by love but much more by the fact that he has been dishonored (he even tells his friend that he can't return to Japan from Australia, where he took Midori for their honeymoon). So both Colin and Midori have done things that lead to their ultimate downfalls, and just to make sure their fate is sealed, they have gotten the cops involved by robbing a bank.
One other point where I was not certain I would be able to sit through the movie was the graphic torture scene. I couldn't even take comfort in the fact that Colin had to live through it because they couldn't kill Russell Crowe off, because I wasn't certain he was a big enough star by this point that he would be considered indispensable to the rest of the plot (he was). And other reviewers have pointed out that there is an awful lot of violence in this movie, some of it gratuitous. Was it really necessary, for example, for Yukio to shoot the friend who managed to dig up for him a gun that could not be traced?
The plot continues to build in intensity as the movie progresses, with a very few scenes of relief: the sex scene with its initial hints of bondage (there's probably some sort of symbolism here) and the delightful comic relief of Colin Hay as Jonah, the wheelchair-bound accordionist who drives everyone crazy with his playing of Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries, another one who for no discernible reason gets killed. Surely his playing wasn't that bad...
And speaking of Wagner, what really grabbed my attention was the final six or so minutes of the movie, played to the accompaniment of the Liebestod (love-death) music from the composer's Tristan und Isolde. Crowe, having been shot by Yukio before Yukio in turn is killed by Midori, is really superb here. It's very moving to watch the dying Colin try to reassure Midori by talking to her about the healing qualities of the beach where she is taking him, while smoking a cigarette at the same time (and he even has his seat belt on!). I won't give away the final part of the plot, other than to say that Wagner fans will recognize G?tterd?mmerung in the ending. I didn't think it was possible to make a more effective use of the Liebestod than Jean Negulesco did when he used it to accompany Joan Crawford's walking off into the ocean at the end of Humoresque; however, I found myself watching the ending of this movie over and over again, and I'm sure it was mostly for the music.
Overall a fascinating film, which I've given four stars to instead of five because of some of the gratuitous violence. Four-and-a-half is really more like it. Anyway, it's a film that I'd be more than happy to watch again--and in fact I'm going to have to get the DVD just to turn on the subtitles and catch Crowe's final words, which are covered up by the swelling Liebestod. Nothing Russell Crowe does deserves to be missed.
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on January 6, 2001
Okay, maybe they shouldn't make Mad Max 4 anyway- but after seeing Heaven's Burning I'm convinced that Russel is THE Man. This movie is as quirky and entertaining in an Australian kind of way as Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is in an English way. It contains shockingly funny horrific scenes with a nice character study thrown in. Crowe doesn't play the "always in control" bloke we've seen in some of his other films, including the magnificent Gladiator where he was a slave who was always in control. He's a fella who gets hurt and has no idea what's gonna happen next. And neither do we. Sure, certain things have to happen, but these are mixed in with completely unexpected (often little) things that humanize everyone. I mean, that poor dog! If you haven't seen it, don't worry. I didn't ruin it for you. Great photography as well. Awesome wide screen movie!
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on November 25, 2015
The DVD would not play on three different computers and a portable DVD player (which can play even warped DVD's where a computer can't).

For $5.00, who cares - but a second one bought had the same problem. Something's wrong with the pressing.

UPDATE: It plays okay on an external (Samsung) usb DVD writer/reader. So it's something that requires a particular reader and not the general run of them. It's still a faulty pressing in some sense.
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on September 9, 2001
The only reason to see this film is the brilliant performance by Russell Crowe as Colin, an unemployed mechanic, who lets his decency get in the way of his survival instincts. The best moments are between Colin and his father, perhaps the only other person in the film with any acting skill at all. These moments show what the film could have been, and are well worth the price of the film.
The film itself goes from a weird bank caper to a weird chase/road film. The lead "actress" is truly irritating, with a voice that resembles nails on a blackboard. She is unable to project any personality or make you care about her, but exists merely to put Colin at risk. Crowe, however, is enthralling.
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on August 29, 2014
I saw this movie years ago and purchased a dvd copy that wasn't compatible with US equipment. I was pleasantly surprised to find it on Amazon. Loved it the first time and it hasn't lost any of its appeal.
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on July 15, 2001
I found this movie to be a heartbreaking love story with Colin and Midori only getting to spend a short time together but making that time very memorable. Russell Crowe shows considerable magnetism in this role and plays it exactly the way the character should be portrayed. The only thing that bothered me was the ending but I guess that coming together as they did, Colin and Midori weren't meant to live happily ever after. Very worth seeing!
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