Already joining the ranks of cult favourites, 'The Magician' marks the debut of writer-director-star Scott Ryan. Having sent scripts off to the US only to see them refused, Ryan, a former multimedia student at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, decided to do the most daunting and practical thing: make the film himself. Assembling classmates and a $3,000 (AUS) budget, the result is an entertaining black comedy, but one with a strong feeling of déjà vu.

Ray Shoesmith (Ryan) is a contract killer in Melbourne. But behind the ice cold professional face is a witty and charismatic former soldier with a fairly big ego. So big, in fact, that he agrees to let his filmmaker neighbour Max (Andrighetto) make a documentary about him. The two travel around, sizing up targets, talking movies and plenty of rubbish and straying off the beaten track when one of Ray's targets, drug dealer Tony (Walker), tells him that he can show him where a large sum of money is buried.

Ryan's film is likeable and funny but post-Tarantino, 'Man Bites Dog' and 'Chopper', it's hard to get too excited about this mockumentary. What it will do, however, is convince thousands of aspiring filmmakers around the world that there's no point in waiting for that big break when you can just make it for yourself. 'The Magician's homemade look and amateur cast give it an energy that many films with bigger crews and a few extra zeroes on the budget just can't muster and doubtless a remake for middle America can't be too far off.

But while Ryan's main interest is to direct movies, what he will be remembered most for here is his performance in front of the camera. Looking like The Rock after Christian Bale's diet for 'The Machinist', Ryan has great screen presence and a charisma which feels more than just part of the character. Again, it seems only a matter of time before he appears in something bigger on the other side of the world.

After pulling this rabbit out of the hat, it'll be interesting to see what Ryan's next trick will be.

Harry Guerin