Monday, 13 October 2014


Entertainment One Films

Jailed for an unspecified but presumably low-level crime (incurring just a six-month sentence), JR (Brenton Thwaites) still finds himself in a maximum security facility among armed robbers, rapists and murderers. His cellmate is the prison bitch for one of the gangs and it looks like JR is headed for a similar fate before he's taken under the wing of notorious bank robber, Brendan Lynch (Ewan McGregor).

Lynch's interest in the kid isn't sexual but by no means altruistic, taking the form of a mentor and pupil relationship in Julius Avery's directorial debut Son Of A Gun. JR's imminent release makes him the perfect vehicle by which to make contact with Sam (Jacek Koman), a Russian mobster whom Lynch had dealings with before his incarceration, and who will facilitate, with JR's help, a daring escape for the heist-meister.

Once free, Lynch, JR and fellow escapee, Sterlo (Matt Noble), sign-on to carry out a heist on a gold mining operation for Sam, each receiving equal shares from the multi-million dollar haul. Of course, in the best tradition of movie heists, nothing goes to plan and double-cross upon double-cross ensues.

Son Of A Gun may be a heist film but it's no Ocean's 11 with a band of witty misfits bantering back and forth. In fact the early prison scenes are quite grim. There is humour in Avery and John Collee's screenplay but that's neither the emphasis nor strength of the film. The manouverings and machinations of the characters and the plot -- some clever, some clumsy -- is where the focus rightly lies.

JR is a chess player and is always thinking two or three moves ahead. But he's also young, naive and scared, so he becomes a pawn in Lynch's game long before he realizes that he's a mere piece that can be sacrificed should the need arise. JR is also young and horny, so his judgement is clouded and his thinking done from below the waist when he falls for Tasha (Alicia Vikander). A gangster's moll with a Russian accent and who may or may not have a heart of gold, it's JR's unwise attraction to Tasha which keeps him from making a clean break from the increasingly volatile situation in which he finds himself.

Thwaites (already having had a taste of Hollywood in this year's YA adaptation, The Giver) is a likable if not magnetic protag, but the film's draw card is McGregor. It's an impressive casting coup for any first-time feature film maker, and McGregor delivers; infusing Lynch -- in spite of his bad hair and ugly jeans -- with his well-worn charm without ever once convincing you that his anti-hero is in any way benign. Vikander (the Swedish actress unrecognizable from 2012's Anna Karenina) makes the most of her by-the-numbers role.

Son Of A Gun is by no means original but then, the heist-gone-bad genre is almost as old as cinema itself; an Australian setting and a recognizable vernacular can't abolish decades of genre cliches and tropes. But as a calling card for Avery, who cut his teeth on short films, there's more positives than negatives to be taken away from the experience.

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