Russell Crowe narrates—and is reportedly developing a dramatic remake of—this compact history of Australia's notorious Maroubra Beach community, an economically depressed, inner-Sydney suburb so rough and tumble as to make the South Santa Monica of the Dogtown era look like Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. Maroubra also happens to be a breeding ground for expert pro-surfers, many of them—like the film's director, Sunny Abberton—refugees from public housing and broken families. Abberton offers an absorbing overview of the historical clash between surfers and authorities dating back to the British colonial era (when surfers were charged special taxes for their boards) before honing in on the story of his own family, its central role in the formation of the titular surf "tribe," and the 2003 arrest and trial of his younger brother, Jai, in connection with the shooting death of a local underworld figure. Rudimentarily made as documentaries go—and more than a touch self-glorifying at times—Bra Boys is nevertheless intriguing for its insider's perspective of an outsider culture steeped in tradition, male-bonding rituals, and intense localism. That the film refuses to get too specific about the details of Jai's alleged crime is at once frustrating and entirely in keeping with the Bra Boys' tight-lipped, Old West ethos.
Koby Abberton in the blue room.
Opens at Meridian, Fri., May 30. Rated R. 84 minutes.