25 Mar 2024

Introducing Brollie

From Widescreen, 2:07 pm on 25 March 2024
Still from the 2017 film Lucky, starring Harry Dean Stanton and featuring David Lynch.

Photo: Brollie

Offering a range of Australian, New Zealand, action, horror and arthouse titles for – checks notes – precisely zero dollars, Brollie deserves to join your streaming rotation. At least until they come to their senses and start charging for their content.

Brollie is the streaming arm of boutique Aussie distributor Umbrella who started out in home entertainment at the beginning of the century, moving into theatrical distribution in 2009.

Umbrella seem to be bucking the somewhat gloomy trend at the moment by being upbeat and in expansion mode. They have recently appointed former NZFC executive Jasmin McSweeney to an acquisitions role here in Aotearoa, indicating that they see a bright future for local productions.

They still deal in collectible physical media – a 4K restoration of Gareth Evans’ groundbreaking 2011 action flick The Raid in a package that includes the original graphic novel, poster and postcards feels like a bargain at only A$100 – but it’s the recent opening of their streaming offer, Brollie, that concerns us here. It’s an eclectic selection of film and television that reflects their history in home entertainment.


Still from the 2017 film Lucky starring Harry Dean Stanton.

Photo: Brollie

The great character actor Harry Dean Stanton (Paris, Texas) passed away in 2017, but his final starring role is a wonderful testament to the testy, iconoclastic and always watchable performer.

Written by Logan Sparks and Drago Sumonja, and directed by John Carroll Lynch, as a vehicle for Stanton’s unique screen persona, the film is about a 90-year-old man, living alone in a tiny desert town. Well-liked by the townsfolk, despite his irascible nature, Lucky has an unexpected fall at home and begins to feel the weight of his years start to take their toll.

Mortality is a shadow across the entire film, as Lucky starts to come to terms with the fate that awaits us all, but that he had previously been in denial about.

As dry as the desert in which it is set, Lucky is a joy if watching great actors do their thing is your thing. Cameos from Tom Skerritt, James Darren, Ron Livingston, Ed Begley, Jr. and – most delightfully – David Lynch are brilliant but they are all there to celebrate Stanton.

John Carroll Lynch is a familiar face to many filmgoers, largely as Frances McDormand’s husband in Fargo and the main suspect in David Fincher’s Zodiac in 2007, but as he doesn’t appear on screen in this film, I’m not sure what you can do with that information.

Lucky is, so far, his only feature and he and the screenwriters allow Stanton to furnish the script with autobiographical stories and details. He did indeed serve in the Navy during World War II, as a cook on a landing ship in the battle of Okinawa, a story he tells with typical wry humour in one of the most moving scenes in the film.

Brollie isn’t the only place you can find Lucky but, it is the one where you can watch it for free, so it comes up trumps on that basis. It’s definitely one of the highlights of my recent home viewing.

Not Quite Hollywood

Still from one of the Ozploitation classics discussed in the 2008 documentary Not Quite Hollywood.

Photo: Brollie

As an Australian streamer, you would expect Brollie to have a decent selection of Ocker content but the niches that it has found are quite remarkable, including three seasons of Skippy.

There are dozens of Aussie titles on their slate, many of them quite rare. Titles like Breaker Morant and Walkabout will be familiar to many of you, but I confess I had never heard of Squizzy Taylor or the 1995 black comedy Mushrooms.

The world of Ozsploitation may also be new to many of you, that period during the 70s and 80s where larrikin Australian filmmakers pumped out flicks destined for world drive-ins. Violence and nudity were the order of the day but many of those films showed plenty of imagination and innovation at the same time.

If you take a look at the Ozsploitation tab on brollie and can’t decide between Mad Dog Morgan or Turkey Shoot, I recommend you watch the 2008 documentary Not Quite Hollywood in which the filmmakers – and luminaries like Quentin Tarantino – outline the history of the genre and place it in its historical context. With plenty of mad examples, too.

It’s a terrifically entertaining film in its own right and it does make you wonder how it was that Australian filmmakers could be so much … freer than ours, even though we are only a few thousand kilometres away.

The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey

Still from Vincent Ward's 1988 NZ fantasy film The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey.

Photo: Brollie

New Zealand filmmakers weren’t idle, however, but we were making very different cinema. There isn’t a huge selection of films from Aotearoa on offer, but dig deep enough and you’ll find some high quality, including Jane Campion’s biography of Janet Frame, An Angel at My Table.

My pick of the kiwi content, though, is Vincent Ward’s 1988 fantasy The Navigator, in which a group of frightened 14th century men try and escape the Black Death by tunnelling their way through the earth, only to emerge in present-day Auckland.

Ward never found an easy way to make a film but production of The Navigator was up there with the most challenging, with even Werner Herzog saying that it must have been tough to make.

Brollie (brollie.com.au) is free to use and has apps for all the major platforms, or you can watch in a browser on your PC or Mac. Streaming does require that you set up an account, but they don’t ask for a credit card. Yet.