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Swerve

D: Craig Lahiff / 86m

Cast: Jason Clarke, Emma Booth, David Lyons, Travis McMahon, Vince Colosimo, Roy Billing, Chris Haywood

While travelling across the Australian desert region near Broken Hill, Colin (Lyons) happens upon a road accident.  He finds a dead man, a briefcase full of money, and, as this is a modern day noir thriller, a femme fatale in the form of Jina (Booth), who’s also the cause of the accident.  Colin takes her home and then heads into Broken Hill to hand in the money to the local sheriff (Clarke).  Everything is going okay, and Colin is preparing to continue on his way, when the sheriff, Frank, insists he come home with him to meet his wife as a gesture for being so public spirited.  (There’s no prizes for guessing just who Frank’s wife turns out to be.)  When the money goes missing, and a “representative” of the people the money was intended for shows up – with murderous intent – the fragile relationship between Frank, Jina and Colin begins to unravel.

What follows is a well-crafted thriller where, Colin aside, you’re never entirely sure who’s conning who, or if Jina can be entirely trusted, despite her obvious desire to get away from Frank (who is abusive and jealous).  Colin is the only “straight” character in the whole movie and although he does learn to become a bit more devious by the movie’s end, it’s still intriguing to see just how much has to happen to him before his natural attitude changes.  Lyons plays the part to perfection, and while he is adequately matched by Clarke as the increasingly dysfunctional Frank, it’s his integrity that actually holds the attention.

Clarke has since gone on to bigger things: Lawless, Zero Dark Thirty, Baz Luhrmann’s sumptuous The Great Gatsby, and White House Down.  Clarke is an intense actor, and he imbues Frank with a charming edginess that makes watching him an uneasy experience; you’re never too sure just how he’s going to react at any given moment, or in any given situation.  When a subplot involving the death of one of Frank’s deputies comes to the fore, Clarke ups the ante and makes Frank an even darker character than before but without sacrificing any credibility.

Swerve - scene

As Jina, a lot is required of Emma Booth as the character is the linchpin of the whole movie.  From the moment we see her racing down the highway, to the movie’s denouement, Booth displays just the right amounts of complexity and vulnerability to give her character a bruised steeliness that makes the viewer, like Colin, want to protect and mistrust her at the same time.

Lahiff, returning to feature film-making after a nine year hiatus, carries the audience through each twist and turn of the plot with skilled assurance, and makes great use of the desert locations; on occasion, David Foreman’s cinematography is stunning.  The script, also by Lahiff, is pared down to the bone and there’s not one superfluous moment or scene in the entire movie, an aspect helped immeasurably by Lahiff’s brother Sean being the movie’s editor.

Rating: 7/10 – an unpretentious and accomplished thriller from Down Under and the kind of movie the Aussies do so well; good performances and beautiful location work help Swerve stand out from the crowd.

Originally posted on thedullwoodexperiment website.

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