Directed by David Michod
This is a damn fine modern crime film. The style is restrained, giving the film a more realistic feel than most in the genre and remains, in most regards a very formal, traditional film which, despite such titles, has become more and more irregular as styles and movements have hybridized and become the norm. It is because of that reason I’ve often praised the works of Jeff Nichols and here it feels just as appropriate.
The plot is of a variety that is typical of the genre- An individual is stuck between a dangerous family and the police. Loyalty, family, and all those other thematic staples that come with it are all well represented, but as I was trying to say before you interrupted (seriously, what’s your problem?), I do not love this film because it did new things. I love it because it did everything exceptionally well and managed to make those old things feel fresh and, even more surprisingly, unexpected. There’s a death that happens early on that caught me very much off guard.
Aside from the directorial choices that would have made this a good film, it is the performances that elevate it to a level of either greatness or damn near greatness. Ben Mendlesohn is fast becoming an actor to look at for as he carries with him a knack for transformation that few greats have done as effortlessly (or at least with the appearance of no effort as I’m sure it’s hard to be this good). Comparing his works here, where he’s scary and very intense, in the Dark Knight Rises, where he’s smarmy and wimpy, and Killing Them Softly, where he’s strung out, gross, and moronic, it’s easy to feel a great deal of excitement for this man’s career. But he is but one of many grade A performances in this film, with the other stand outs going to Joel Edgerton, Jacki Weaver, and, of course, Guy Pierce. The only weak link in the film is sadly the protagonist. Yet even with his rigid, stoic performance, it almost feels as though his character is intentionally without any charisma simply to make him feel even more alien to this world of flamboyant personalities.
It’s a good to great movie and if you’re jonesing for a good crime yarn, this is a fantastic place to look.