Les Underwood (John Brumpton) greatly enjoys taking all sorts of goods from customers desperate for money – after all, it is a great business. With the help of Danny (Damian Hill), his softly spoken but loyal employee, Les runs the pawnbroker store that sees an odd range of customers throughout the day.
Pawno celebrates the diversity seen in Australia, but often neglected in Australian film, and the ensemble cast all have their own story to tell. This is both a strength and a weakness of this film. By introducing so many complex characters, it struggles to give audiences in-depth look at each one. This is exemplified by Paige (Daniel Frederiksen), who is a transwoman introduced early in the film, but not to be seen again until the closing scenes. Paige enters the pawnshop needing money to take her sons to the new superhero film on the weekend. She still suffers from the stigma of being trans, and hides her tears from the abuse she took in the street. There is enough exposure of Paige for audiences to get invested in her character, but she disappears from the film soon after her introduction, to be replaced by equally interesting characters with unsatisfactory coverage. The film aims to tell the story of everyday Australians, but these convoluted subplots struggle to give an overarching meaning to the film.
Although it has structural issues, Pawno is still greatly enjoyable. It is unashamedly Australian, and its dark humour is appealing to the wider Australian audience. It is not an arthouse film that everyday viewers would find confusing or pretentious, and it has the makings to be commercially successful. The banter between Carlo (Malcolm Kennard) and Pauly (Mark Coles Smith) is riotously entertaining, particularly their dismal attempts to pick up. The cast is excellent, and their performance ensures the film is able to reach its potential. The film captures the essence of Footscray, an inner-western Melbourne suburb, and it is refreshing to see the film embrace the urban lifestyle in Australia, rather than the typical outback film. Its cinema run has finished, so hopefully Hill and Ireland organise a DVD or online release. Otherwise, Pawno will risk joining the list of forgotten Australian films, and that would be a real shame.
Written by T.B.