Head On (1998)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Coming-of-Age, Gay & Lesbian Films, Urban Drama  |   Release Date - Aug 13, 1999 (USA)  |   Run Time - 99 min.  |   Countries - Australia   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Brian J. Dillard

First-time director Ana Kokkinos crams more issues into her 100-minute debut feature than many filmmakers manage to work into their entire oeuvres. Frenetic, furious, and deliberately messy, Head On tackles the tortuous coming-out process of first-generation immigrant kids, the strife between Australian ethnic groups, and more familiar conflicts both sexual and generational. Despite its blustery electronic soundtrack and its in-your-face editing style, Head On recalls La Haine, Mathieu Kassovitz's elegant black-and-white dissection of racial conflicts in inner-city Paris. That said, a film this ambitious by a novice is bound to have its share of rough edges. At times, Kokkinos seems almost too intent on exploring every facet of her protagonist's complicated existence. Intriguing characters and ideas barely make it into the frame before the action sweeps off on the next tangent. Nevertheless, the fierce lead performance of Alex Dimitriades, the strong supporting cast (especially Paul Capsis), and the incendiary subject matter combine into a film whose scope and naked emotional power make up for its small structural deficiencies. A compelling riposte to bland, middle-class coming-out melodramas, Head On ventures out of the gay ghetto to take in the world as it really is.