Slick compared to films noir of old, the stunts too cool and characters too swishy, but swaggering with a good old-fashioned edge and raw steaming action for each and every one of its 105 minutesBreakthrough director/writer brother team Nash and Joel Edgerton have come up with a slick neo-noire thriller in the down and dirty double-cross drama “The Square.”
David Roberts earned a Best Actor nomination from the Australian Film Institute (AFI) for his portrayal of victim and perpetrator Raymond Yale. As in the true and honorable tradition of the film noire Ray is a good man who gets in over his head. In fact, way over his head. The reason he gets in over his head is, you guessed it, a broad with gams that spell trouble the minute you set eyes on them. If you had a chance to get in trouble with Claire van der Boom, you would, too. As the steaming unfaithful wife Carla Smith she has the ability to suck guileless men into the screen and suck the life out of them all the way from Australia. Be prepared.
After the obligatory steamy sex opening we travel to the hum-drum construction site where Ray is building a new honeymoon hotel and observe as he conducts a little construction hanky-panky in the form of small-time kick-backs. This is a good and honorable beginning for a noire thriller because Ray starts out of the gate with a little helping of guilt right off the bat. Being that the film is only 10 minutes running at that point we are veritably salivating for more guilt, more crime and the inevitable smashing, humiliating, denigrating ending that is the traditional noir hero’s lot.
We won’t be disappointed, but getting there is what’s fun.
Nash Edgerton is number one in charge of fun and a gifted director of nastiness he turns out to be. However, it is the director’s brother and co-screenwriter (shared with Matthew Dabner) Joel Edgerton who steals the show as Billy the arsonist. Billy the arsonist is one of those gifted criminals who just happened to have all the talent in the wrong place. His talent is setting things afire in ways that are very hard to prove as arson. Like Ray he is a small time crook. He wants to make a fast buck and not hurt anybody. This is the key failing of all three male protagonists. They are good guys who make the same bad mistake of thinking you can be good and bad at the same time.
Joel Edgerton (Owen Lars in “Star Wars” II and III) shared an AFI nomination with Matthew Dabner for Best Screenplay and grabbed himself a nomination for Best Supporting actor for his riveting portrayal of Billy the arsonist in this film.
Edgerton shares the opportunity of a lifetime for playing a badass character with Anthony Hayes. Hayes was also nominated for an AFI for Best Supporting Actor for his work in this film as cuckolded husband and ripped off thief Smithy Smith. Hayes adds this nomination to two previous AFI Supporting Actor wins for “Suburban Mayhem” (2006) and “Look Both Ways” (2005). Anthony Hayes is on a roll playing a man you totally do not want to double cross. When he has a cricket bat he is definitely a man you totally don’t want to double cross. Ray and Billy have big bad secrets that they don’t want Smithy to find out but he is crafty as a fox and he smells a rat like Jack Nicholson sniffs rodents in “The Departed.” Each one of the characters kills and maims friends and foes alike when people get in their way and Ray has gotten in their way big time.
There is going to be hell to pay and we are in for a wild ride.
Very good supporting work by a dozen tough henchmen, dumb broads, tough broads and dumb henchmen. Each and every one bears the frightened smirk of a good person who has done a little bad thing and is watching it grow out of control. They know that can’t stop it. They can run but they can’t hide.
Too bad it is too late to change the title. “The Square” doesn’t do this film justice. It is a trip into noir hell, Down Under.
Directed by: Nash Edgerton
Written by: Joel Edgerton and Matthew Dabner
Starring: David Roberts, Joel Edgerton and Anthony Hayes
Release: April 9, 2010
MPAA: MPAA:Rated R for violence and language
Runtime: 105 minutes