Avery’s Sharp Crime Drama Brings The OTT Fun. McGregor And Thwaites Team Up Well.
Landing Ewan McGregor for your debut feature is something of a score, but it’s easy enough to see what attracted the in-demand actor to Perth-based writer/director Julius Avery’s entertaining, if a little implausible, crime drama.
While the genre is fast becoming a mainstay of the Australian indie scene, Son of a Gun sticks firmly to the fast and sexy model of Tony Ayre’s Cut Snake and labours less on the increasingly miserable tone of many hoping to mimic the success of David Michod’s Animal Kingdom.
McGregor, Scottish accent intact, plays charismatic anti-hero Brendan, something of a kingpin in the high security prison to which heartthrob Brenton Thwaites’ JR is a new arrival. Thwaites was less than impressive in young adult dystopia The Giver abut turns out to be quite a likeable screen presence here, even if he’s rather amusingly shirtless for an alarming percentage of the film’s almost two-hour runtime.
The young gun comes to Brendan’s attention as he rather cockily offers advice on his chess playing tactics, in a rather flimsily developed and clumsy metaphor for the twisty turny antics that are about to ensue once he’s taken under the prison ringleader’s wing. Brendan soon disposes of brutal thugs who first picked on JR’s cellmate, then turned their attentions on the younger man. But there’s a price for this ‘kindness.’ There’s always a price.
This is when the film kicks into somewhat ludicrous but nevertheless heaps of fun high gear, when JR’s early release sees him orchestrate a rather OTT prison break under orders form Thwaites. The boost is nuts, complete with laughably bad aim from Stormtrooper-like prison guards, but does the trick, freeing Brendan and good mate Sterlo, an easily charismatic Matt Nable (Fell).
From then on in Son of a Gun’s all Eastern European gangsters and a gold heist that zips from the west coast of Australia to the east and back again. Despite the daftly high octane plot, there’s actually some pretty nice character stuff going on here, with a grudging, almost paternal respect playing out between Brendan and JR, with Twhaites and McGregor sharing a great on-screen rapport. There’s also a sweet if predictable relationship for JR with club girl and gangster’s moll Tasha, played with spunk by Swedish actress Alicia Vikander.
Don’t take it too seriously and there’s a lot of fun to be had with Avery’s hijinks. Son of a Gun has been slickly shot by cinematographer Nigel Bluck, who worked on the second unit of The Lord Of The Rings movies, the action sequences are thrilling and there a sharp sense of humour smuggled in here too.
Stephen A Russell