The Square

Starring Claire van der Boom, Joel Edgerton, Kieran Darcy-Smith, Brendan Donoghue, and Anthony Hayes. Directed by Nash Edgerton.
Running Time: 105 mins.
Rated: Rated MA15+ (strong violence, coarse language).
Premiered at the recent 55th. Sydney International Film Festival, and well received there, this dramatic thriller is an Australian production that combines the talents of the Edgerton Brothers, Nash and Joel. The film is a classy home-grown thriller that creates tension and manages to sustain it throughout. Nash Edgerton directs the film and his brother Joel, co-writes the film, and plays Billy, one of its leading characters. Billy is a professional arsonist, who is hired by Ray (David Roberts) to set fire to the loot-filled house of Carla's husband, Smithy (Anthony Hayes), after Carla (Claire van de Boom) has previously removed the money. Their burning-down of the house is an act to explain the missing money and distract Smithy from the affair between his wife, Carla and Ray, whose loveless marriage has gone wrong. The burning of the house should have been aborted, but Billy fails to get Ray's message in time not to go ahead. As a result, Smithy's elderly mother dies in the fire. Ray and Claire try to fend off Billy, but they are blackmailed which makes the going very difficult for them both, and the events that follow include interactions with a devious concrete-truck operator Barney (Kieran Darcy-Smith) and his electrician associate Leonard (Brendan Donoghue) who feature vividly. What can go wrong does go wrong for nearly all those in the film. Carla wants to escape from her petty criminal husband, Smithy, and she goes to criminal lengths to keep her passion for Ray alive. For Ray, the affair with Carla spins him out of control in ways he can't handle, and he ultimately descends into total moral confusion and disarray.

The film is heavy on stunts, which is not surprising given the director's background and his cinematographer's (Brad Shield) experience in filming them. The movie has some fine acting performances, especially from Anthony Hayes (as Smithy) who acted so well in the two excellent Australian movies, "Suburban Mayhem' and "Look Both Ways.' This is the first feature film for many of those associated with this movie and one looks forward to more of them. The reasons for Ray's loveless marriage is not expounded and the unravelling of the blackmail plot becomes too complicated, but the camera work by Brad Shield is particularly good, the action sequences are excellent, and many of the scenes are very Australian. We recognise immediately the scenery, the Aussie carol singing and fireworks display, and the marvellous construction site amidst the rain (which holds the key to the meaning of the film's title) that is used to great effect by the director and his cinematographer. The violence is strong, and the film moves into an escalation of it.

The film is advertised as an Edgerton Bros. production, which invites inevitable comparison with the movies made by the Coen Bros. Such a comparison is too superficial, although both teams of brothers do aim for dark thrillers, a distinctive style, and much violence. In this film, the sudden and unexpected death of the dog in the water would have made the Coen Bros. proud; and there are moments when the Edgerton Bros. capture an integrative style, as the Cohen Bros. do. Overall, the film constitutes a vividly recognizable and engrossing exploration of a genre that has great potential for the team responsible for this film.

Village Out now.

Peter W Sheehan, Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting