The Wannabees

Sam Worthington, David Wenham, Timothy Spall,Freya Stafford, Gary Sweet, David Field
Directed by JonathanTeplitzky
Running Time: 100 mins
Rated: M

Australian films often suffer from underdeveloped scripts, sometimes the result of under-budgeting. This shortchanges audiences, and makes them lose confidence in Australian films. But when Australian films work, they're up there with the very best, which is the case with Getting' Square, directed by Jonathan Teplitzky (Better Than Sex).

In this entertaining film set in Brisbane and the Gold Coast, Sam Worthington (Bootmen) plays Barry Wirth, a young man just out of prison, who like his best mate 'Spit' (David Wenham, SeaChange, Better Than Sex) finds the path to 'getting' square' (going straight) anything but easy.

Barry wants nothing more than to look after his younger brother Joey (Luke Pegler), while Spit dreams of a miracle cure to kick his habit. But life is more complex. Underworld boss Chicka Martin (Gary Sweet) and corrupt cop Arnie DeVierts (David Field), won't let bygones be bygones, while a fresh enemy, the Criminal Investigation Commission, has Barry in its sights as part of a project to snare Barry's new boss 'Dabba' Barrington (Timothy Spall), for money-laundering.

Getting' Square is directed confidently and with flair by Teplizky, has a clever plot with a nice sting in its tail, and interesting, very real characters. It doesn't depend on sadism or gratuitous violence, so ignore reviews that would have you believe that this is Pulp Fiction down-under. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Scriptwriter Chris Nyst has practised as a criminal defence lawyer in Queensland for many years, and his crooks, for all their faults, have human sensibilities. It is assumed that audiences will enjoy entering their reality, not only for excitement and laughs, but also for a look at the way life is lived by those who have minimal purchase on life, and revolt through crime. Drugs are revealed as corrupting everything: once in the loop, it's almost impossible to extricate oneself legitimately.

Performances are true to life too. Worthington is just right as the sober and intense Barry, while Timothy Spall (Secrets and Lies) brings conviction to the likeable Dabba with effortless ease, as does Richard Carter who plays the ex-crim's bodyguard, Crusher. However, best of all is David Wenham's inspired creation of the tragi-comic, chronically stoned Spit, which wins him my nomination for Best Actor at this year's Australian Film Institute awards.

Jan Epstein is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Film