Though the title implies otherwise, Bra Boys is neither an ’80s sex romp nor a cross-dressing exposé. The documentary does, however, concern porn: the little-known genre of wave porn, specifically. Huge, heaving curves. Explosions of foamy spray. Men rhythmically darting in and out with their large, phallic objects. Somewhere around the middle, bad vibes harsh the buzz. Then the wave porn resumes.
This vanity project from director, writer and producer Abberton purports to profile Australia’s notorious “surf tribe,” aka a multicultural, tattooed gang raised in poverty that lives only for the beach and shirtless interviews. Onetime pro Abberton deliberately focuses on the group’s founding core: himself and younger brothers Koby and Jai. Little mention is made of drugs or girls, but the three and their like-minded, “stand-up type of man” cohorts, when they aren’t hanging 10, occupy themselves by brawling with rival gangs, getting into altercations with the police and performing Jackass-like stunts. And, as with their surf videos, they record it all.
The series of home movies remains essentially plotless until pro contenders Jai and Koby become involved in a murder case, the details of which are never fully revealed. As their trials unfold, Boys switches into full PR mode, crying out for sympathy and banking on nonexistent emotional investment (audiences may actually favor the island’s Aborigines).
Even when they’re displaying gaping neck wounds, the central figures never fully become flesh-and-blood. The soundtrack, photo montages, trickling-tear close-ups and a bizarre dramatic re-creation are almost laughably manipulative, and the perspective never waivers from eternally self-serving. The brothers claim the rest of the world considered them outlaw sports heroes even as the Australian government treated them like thugs, and Bra Boys does little to prove the claim. Though the wave porn is, like, totally gnarly, even with narrator Russell Crowe’s commanding off-camera presence, the film should have remained in the shallow waters its subjects most abhor.