Son of a Gun
dir-scr Julius Avery
prd Timothy White
with Brenton Thwaites, Ewan McGregor, Alicia Vikander, Jacek Koman, Matt Nable, Tom Budge, Damon Herriman, Nash Edgerton, Eddie Baroo, Marko Jovanovic, Soa Palalei, Sam Hutchin
release Aus 16.Oct.14, UK 30.Jan.15
14/Australia Altitude 1h48
Son of a Gun
Cool criminals: Thwaites and McGregor

vikander koman
london film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Son of a Gun Rippingly entertaining, this Australian thriller never quite breaks the surface but has strong characters well-played by an eclectic cast. And its pacing is so brisk that it holds the interest even if the plot twists and thematic metaphors are all painfully obvious. But even without any subtext, it's still a solid guilty pleasure.

At 19, JR (Thwaites) refuses to let six months in prison get the best of him, going in with full bravado, which includes marching up to notorious criminal Brendan (McGregor) and announcing that he's a fan. In exchange for protection inside, JR agrees to help Brendan when he's released in six months, launching an audacious prison break before joining the Russian gang led by Sam (Koman). Still refusing to toe the line, JR falls for Sam's moll Tasha (Vikander), which complicates his role in a massive gold heist and the messy fallout afterwards.

Writer-director Avery continually shifts genres, moving from prison thriller to adventure caper to double-crossing gangster drama. He also overstuffs the symbolism, from heavy-handed chess references to the arch father-son dynamic between JR and Brendan. All of this hints that nothing is what it seems, and yet nothing ever surprises us. Try as he might, Avery's script never throws the audience off the scent. So the film ends up feeling dark and slick, but never as clever as it looks.

This blunt screenplay echoes in the acting, as everyone is relentlessly cocky and self-assured. Thwaites holds his own with scene-stealers like McGregor and Koman, while Vikander makes the most of her token-bombshell role. There's a terrific spark between McGregor and Thwaites, a flash of chemistry with hints of rivalry and respect. This helps them get away with all of the corny dialog about which is a bonobo and which is a chimp.

Through all of this, neither the characters nor the audience takes any note of the potential dangers. Things may get super-violent, but being a criminal is super-cool. Avery stages several thrilling set-pieces, from the prison break to the gold heist, but even though something always goes wrong there's never much real tension. And none of the big revelations are much of a surprise. In this sense, it's easy for us to believe along with the characters that after the nasty betrayal a happy ever after might be possible. No, this isn't the brightest movie of the year, but the ride is a lot of fun.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 16.Oct.14

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