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:: The Hard Word

What starts out as a promisingly slick, fast paced Aussie film very quickly degenerates into a muddled, clichéd mess that looks like the off-cuts of Two Hands, Australia’s last, and infinitely superior, heist film.

There seems to be a lot of confusion, both for the audience, and the filmmakers. Writer/director Scott Roberts seems never to have met a woman in his life judging by the appalling portrayals in this film. Aside from Rachel Griffiths’ character, Guy Pearce’s cheating, money hungry wife, the other three women, and I’m including the woman who gets her breasts massaged by Joel Edgerton as a major female character as she gets nearly as much screen time as the others, seem to be simpering idiots there purely for the adolescent sexual fantasies of the male characters.

But feminist fury aside, there is still much wrong with the film. A lot of confusion in the set up as to what the brothers were doing, bouncing in and out of jail and how exactly their lawyer could influence any of it, not to mention the strange conceit of jumping into the POV of a minor character with a very convenient defect (over and above the appalling attempt at a Cockney accent, terrible name of Tarzan and wooden delivery of lines) combined to avoid any feeling of coherence. The film jumps from a playschool version of Chopper prison film to The Killing style race heist to almost romantic road movie, and then finishes off with a Ravenous twist. It seems perhaps this director has watched too many movies, and not learnt the best lessons from any of them.

Guy Pearce and Rachel Griffiths’ first on screen pairing is a disappointment. Mainly because Rachel’s character has absolutely no redeeming features. The supposedly happy ending has a hollow ring to it as a result. A ridiculous incest back-story for Edgerton’s character doesn’t serve to illuminate him at all, but at least he gets a back-story. The other characters remain as opaque as when the film began, they will continue on in their stereotypes- helpfully spelled out for us early on- Guy Pearce is the smart one, Damien Richardson is the good one and Joel Edgerton is the fuck up, until they die.

There is much swearing and much blood and guts (the film’s previous title), but it does not add a sense of reality. Very little about The Hard Word was plausible, though some of it was entertaining and it was certainly slick. What saves it are interesting performances from the three leads, though they don’t always seem to be in the same film, a funky soundtrack and some beautiful cinematography- Melbourne has rarely looked better. A highlight is an extended chase sequence through the city streets.

Screening on general release including George Cinemas, Brighton Bay Cinemas and Classic Cinemas