Sterling Performance And Strong Dramatic Tension Deliver Meaty Aussie Drama. Edgerton And Courtney Make Fine Sparring Partners.
Joel Edgerton wrote, produced and stars in the MIFF closing night film Felony, slickly directed by Noise’s Matthew Saville and on general release from today. The razor sharp and janglingly tense drama also happens to revolve around the number three, in this case the inextricable ties that bind Edgerton’s dubious, drunk-driving police detective Malcolm Toohey to his crusty old boss Carl Summer (Tom Wilkinson) and young pretender and by-the-book do-gooder Jim Melic, in a great turn by Jai Courtney, who has been wasting his time in an interminable series of ridiculous action flicks.
After being shot in the chest during a drugs bust, with his bullet-proof vest bearing the brunt, Toohey is championed by his colleagues in a boozy pub session that leads to him knocking over a young boy on his paper run while driving home in the early hours of the morning. With no witnesses to testify against him, he makes the fateful decision to cover up his guilt, though it will immediately begin to eat at his conscience. Summer is reluctant to probe to deeply, despite the insistence of a far less ready to play along Melic.
Toohey’s initial call to the ambulance is played over the opening credits, and it’s a clever trick, amping up the tension with the inexorability of what lies ahead. The cat-and-mouse game that ensues as Mellic doggedly pursues his hunch while Toohey passively allows himself to be painted as a hero for coming to the young boy’s rescue, only deepening his moral distress, is a masterclass in both grand performances and tight direction by Saville.
There are fantastic supporting performances from Melissa George as Toohey’s wife, determined to keep their family together at all costs, and from Sarah Roberts as the mother of the hospitalised boy. In amongst the deeply personal family dramas is sewn an ongoing paedophile case over which Summer obsesses and also the drug cartel storyline. Neither comes to the fore, but both handily echo the three-way struggle between the cops.
Edgerton’s script is robust, diligently mining the moral quandaries at play here, and all of the actors step up to the plate, with Joel a real talent and Courtney remarkable as Melic, who turns out to be capable of making his own questionable decisions. As the drama coils itself tighter and tighter in the approach to the powerful final act, the only niggle for me with Felony is that, after the murky waters of what’s gone before, the resolution is a just a tad too neat and tidy.
Stephen A Russell