Director: Julius Avery
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Brenton Thwaites, Alicia Vikander, Matt Nable, Jacek Korman, Eddie Baroo
Written by: Julius Avery
Running Time: 108 mins
Release date: 30th January 2014
The crime thriller genre is a very crowded and well-worn style of cinema, so to really make an impact, you have to come up with something really special and unique. Son Of A Gun is an Australian piece from first time feature director Julius Avery and while there are flashes of originality, this is all rather pedestrian and ordinary.
JR is a young man sent to jail for his first crime. Whilst inside, he is taken under the wing by notorious criminal, Brendan Lynch. Persuading JR to do a favour once released, the young man breaks Brendan out of jail. Once free, Brendan becomes the leader of a gold robbery in a refinery, for Russian gangster, Sam. Things don’t go to plan and the criminals start to turn on each other. Meanwhile, JR plays a dangerous game, falling for one of Sam’s girls, Tasha.
Avery, who also wrote the screenplay, takes the crime element and tries to introduce a new perspective, showing the whole thing from naive teenager, JR. Caught in a trap that would either have seen him becoming the centre of attention from some of the inmates in the prison, or working for Brandan. The trouble is, that while this tries to be interesting, there are too many stereotypes and clichés to make it all that different.
The prison scenes, for example, are filled with bald, muscle-bounded, tattoo covered thugs who want the new boy for their personal “pleasure”. Once outside, we have Russians as the baddies, a car chase, dishonour among thieves. It’s almost as if it’s ticking all the boxes for this kind of feature.
Which is a pity because throughout the film there is a sense of dread and doom. Avery has a great sense of atmosphere and handles it well. Even the action sequences are tense and exciting. It also makes a difference not to have the mean streets of New York or L.A. as a backdrop, with the less imposing streets of Melbourne used instead.
The actors do a reasonable job with the material at hand. Alicia Vikander, who seems to be everywhere at the moment (Testament Of Youth, Ex_Machina) is fine as feisty, independently minded Tasha, who falls for JR. Brenton Thwaites brings a nice sense of naivety to the young man caught in a world of crime, while still hoping to make his dreams come true (he keeps a collage of pictures in his pocket). What is lacking is any real chemistry between the two though, leaving the love story element feeling a little cold.
Leading the pack is Ewan McGregor as Brendan, a Scot who has become a notorious criminal Down Under. Intelligent yet ruthless, McGregor seems to be far too good for this type of material. He does a terrific job, yet you keep feeling that he deserves so much better.
Son Of A Gun isn’t a bad film. It entertains and often excites. It has a decent twist at the end. It just doesn’t surprise, or offer anything we haven’t seen before. Once you step out the cinema, you will be very lucky if you can remember a thing about it. Having said that, it will be interesting to keep an eye on Julius Avery in the future. He may be a director to watch.