The line of irony is drawn from Wilder’s One, Two, Three: "The world won’t be free until Coke is available everywhere." The troubleshooting Yank (Eric Roberts) goes to Sydney to increase the company’s market numbers and, discovering a dry patch in the outback controlled by another soda merchant, assumes the worst: "What the hell is he, a Pepsi man?!" Actually, the stubborn old-timer (Bill Kerr) is his own man, the owner of a steam-powered tutti-frutti juice factory who greets visitors with a shotgun when not mourning the death of his muse ("She never understood... ice," he sighs). To Kerr’s grizzled individualist, the American is corporate imperialism in the flesh; to a starstruck hotel concierge he’s a CIA agent, to a didgeridoo-playing bushman in the street he’s a career opportunity ("Ring my agent," he tells Roberts). It’s not easy for a rascally iconoclast to survive during the '80s, so Dusan Makavejev heads out to Australia with Local Hero in mind and his main actor’s gung-ho mannerisms in hand. The satire is peculiarly fizzless, boiled down to the reds of Coke trucks cutting through jungle greens and a line of Santa Clauses bobbing with bottle in hand to "Waltzing Matilda." Still, Makavejev makes himself affably at home Down Under, bouncing jibes off his grimacing leading man and locating a genial menagerie of kangaroos, mice, camels, and cockatoos in the sidelines. And, as the executive’s flaky secretary, Greta Scacchi is an irresistible comic-carnal lifeforce -- when she lays in bed in a St. Nick costume and, in the film’s erotic pinnacle, unwraps herself in a rain of feathers, the Makavejev from Man Is Not a Bird and Love Affair peeks from behind the cuddly Aussie eccentricity. With Chris Haywood, Kris McQuade, Max Gillies, and Tony Barry.
--- Fernando F. Croce