By Jessica Leafe
In this Australian drama starring Ewan McGregor and Brenton Thwaites (The Giver), a young petty criminal called JR enters prison for six months, and with an interaction started by a chess game, is taken under the wing of strange and bearded inmate, Brendan. In return for protection and a future job, Brendan (McGregor) hooks JR into breaking him out, and introduces him to a world of dog-eat-dog crime.
Brenton Thwaites is once again cast as the young innocent turned to action. He enters prison with no allies or status, and the promise of protection and future wealth leads him to becoming Brendan’s puppy. After breaking out Brendan and his posse, the gang are given a job in a massive gold heist, and the relationship between the two becomes more and more constrictive.
JR begins a naiive romance with Russian Tasha (Alicia Vikander), who is also caught in a similarly constrictive relationship, and the two dream of escaping their respective environments together.
Throughout the film, there is a strange confusion in knowing who the audience is meant to sympathise with; the most obvious choice being the young JR, with his notorious mentor, Brendan, a doubtful ally. Brendan and his accompanying inmates bring a strange moral hierarchy into the film; they protect JR from prison rape and bullying, beat and kill an inmate guilty of raping a ten-year-old girl, then will happily gun down any obstructing officer or innocent worker in their path to wealth and hiding.
The film features moments of highly violent action, with the very occasional comic relief. While classified as an action film set in the stark desert underworld of Western Australia, it lingers in the Australian realm of keeping drama to a naturalistic and raw level, and in doing so, drops the pace about two-thirds of the way in.
Despite this, Son of a Gun is an intriguing crime film and a refreshing Australian presence at cinemas, which is bound to accelerate deserving director Julius Avery’s career into future projects.
Son of a Gun is in cinemas now.
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