FELONY [2014]


Directed by Matthew Saville, Screenplay written by Joel Edgerton

Starring: Joel Edgerton, Jai Courtney, Tom Wilkinson

After a slew of successful (if not to my taste) Australian TV shows (most notably The Secret Life Of Us, where Joel Edgerton also got his start), directer Mathew Saville has gotten to his second feature film, the first being Noise [2007], which I thouroughly enjoyed. His direction is not flashy, it is not filled with editing tricks, but what he does suceed in is producing another Australian movie worthy of the world stage. His work is not intrusive; rather he lets the characters lead the film. Joel Edgerton, co-writer of The Rover from earlier this year, has written an interesting screenplay, if not basic, where we have three cops with differing opinions on right and wrong; what is justice and what isn’t, and for the first two acts of the film the tension builds as it seems inevitable that they are going to come to blows in some way. Just how the final act will unravel though will be a mystery until it is revealed.

Edgerton plays a cop who is the cause of a potentially tragic accident. Before he knows what he has done, lies spil from his gullet to the emergency services regarding what exactly happened. To make the hole he has dug even deeper, his superior officer wants to keep a lid on it. What seems like an easy cover-up for a detective and his captain, who happens to be a mate, has a screwdriver thrown into the works as maverick detective Jim (Jai Courtney) is onto Mal’s (Edgerton) case almost immedietely. What follows is a tense series of confrontations between all three parties, as Joel feels the pressure of guilt, to which his captain (veteran English actor Tom Wilkinson, whose Aussie accent sounds amazing – a notoriously difficult accent to master) makes perfectly clear what he thinks of the situation. What I was really impressed with was how the cops were shown as human beings, not simple, power-hungry poeple. Joel plays his character almost too perfectly, constanty wrecked with guilt, his face a constant haze as he is lost in his thoughts. The same applies to his captain, who begins to slide emotionally as Jim won’t stop investigating the cover up that the Captain himself iniated.

A fairly simple plot turns into a nice little suspenceful drama, as we are wondering how it will end; what will Joel decide to do? Fess up? Dob in his captain? Retire? Or something more sinister? The possibilities are numerous, which is part of makes this flick an enjoyable watch. To add further to the creek he has lead himself down without a paddle, is he is a family man; his decision has the potential to ruin his home life. To add to the hefty weight of this case, all three officers are shown working dilligently on other cases while the main case of the movie lingers in the back of their minds. It really shows that while there is undoubtedly corruption, or comradery among fellow coppers if you want to look at it that way, these people are human. They can falter, they feel, and this movie accurately portrays the Aussie police (and the truly corrupt justice) system in that (most) cops, deep down, are good men. But motives, whether it is to cover one’s arse, or to gain attention and/or a promotion, will always be apparent and will always linger and affect the judgement of officers. This is of course amplified when the suspect is a detective himself, and we all know that cops like to look after their own, often to their own detriment.

The final act of this flick is spectacular, after a slow but interesting first couple of acts. What is a suspenseful ride simueltaneously turns into a drama, with several events coming out of nowhere – mostly direct results of the cover-up that all three officers are involved in – leaving you guessing at what will happen next, and more importantly, how it will all end for each of the three very different officers. And I can almost guarantee that your guesses will be wrong.

At first, the ending confused me, as it is a little ambigious and left to the viewer to ponder over, but upon further reflection I don’t think it could have ended on a better note. The sound department also did a fantastic job, not so much with the soundtrack, but the way it would muffle outside sound to heighten the sense of the intense emotion of a character on-screen. Sounds such as clocks ticking, magnets being placed on police whiteboards etc making loud sounds against the muffled talking of the rest of the scene really create a unique and appropriate atmosphere. It really drives home the extent to which the incident affected each man.

This is yet another solid, world-stage quality movie from our land down under. The Babadook, The Rover, These Final Hours, and now this. And I still have The Infinite Man to catch, as well as Son of a Gun coming soon, which looks like another top-notch Australian production. A superb year for Aussie cinema, keep ’em coming guys!!

3.5/5 – This was a solid movie, but the elements of tension could have been amplified significantly, and the cinematography, editing work and the soundtrack were all a little underwhelming. Still, definetely worth a watch.