When Surfers Paradise hustler Elmo's (Teo Gebert) petty crim pal, Stand-Up Stevie (Firass Dirani), gets into hot water for selling a dodgy watch to Russian Tony (Mark Bullus), his way out is to transport stolen jewels in a briefcase from Melbourne to Brisbane for Surfers Paradise hood Bondi Bob McLean (Chris Betts). What Stevie wasn't told is that the jewels were stolen from Four B Two Lou Wiseman's (Mark Erickson) pawnshop. Which is why Lou sends two thugs to intercept the briefcase, but the thick mugs get the wrong man and the wrong briefcase - which contains a rare horse-speeder drug that belongs to Peter Cho (Anthony Wong) a Chinatown villain. The simple solution is for Stevie and Elmo to trade the case of jewels for the case of the drug with Cho. Simple in theory ....
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It's a wicked pleasure of a movie, full of fun, totally engaging and the touches of black just add texture to a focused screenplay and sharply tuned direction from Chris Nyst, the criminal lawyer turned filmmaker who wrote the highly effective (but under promoted) Gettin' Square. Here he shows flair as a filmmaker, knowing exactly what he wants and getting it with a stylised look that at accentuates the world of lowlife crims operating around Surfers Paradise - Nyst's own territory. He's put together a strong story and some cracker dialogue in the mouths of colourful characters. Hard to beat.
It's a terrific cast, too, with Teo Gebert wonderfully three dimensional as Elmo, the central character who takes us into his confidence as he acts as a sort of tour guide for the journey that separates the good crims from the bad crims. Gebert's excellent characterisation gives the film its heart as well as its insider mood. Firass Dirani makes a great partner in crime who hasn't learnt the lessons that Elmo has - but then Elmo had his grandpa, Peppermint Jack (memorable Rex 'Bicky' McAdam), to tell him the rules, like the film's main tag: 'if you're gonna do crooked business ... do it straight'. Old Jack pops up occasionally with his words of wisdom to add to the texture of the film, which adds to the crazy, energetic tone that maintains throughout.
The depth and quality of the casting is partly responsible for the film's perfect pitch as it takes us into an underworld that is filled with all sorts of shonky operators from the naïve to the nasty, each with their individuality outlined. With the exception of one weak, hammy scene (in a courtroom), Nyst manages to get the larger than life element working for him, providing a steady dynamic.
The soundtrack matches the mood and Mark Wareham's cinematography makes good use of low key lighting, contrasts and the highlights of Surfers Paradise. It's the kind of film that will give audiences plenty of entertaining flashbacks as they share the fun.
Review by Louise Keller:
Everyone's trying to get somewhere in Crooked Business, especially if it's on the way to Easy Street. And everyone's a crim, even though not all crims are equal, if you know what I mean. Like Gettin' Square, this second crime scam from lawyer turned writer Chris Nyst grabs us by the scruff of our neck and takes us deep into a murky world full of scallywags, tough guys and seriously crazed crims who bumble, tumble and shoot their way through hell and high water. Nyst also directs this time and propelled by a turbo soundtrack, the film is highly stylised and raucously energetic with an overriding droll sense of humour. The action borders on the hyperactive and Nyst orchestrates the ups and downs with genuine affection for his characters. I occasionally got lost in the plot, but the colourful characters more than make up for any confusion as we partake in a complex scenario involving an illegal errand, a switch, horse doping and a counterfeit scam.
When we meet Teo Gebert's Elmo, he is quick to tell us he is not a criminal, although he's prepared to bend a few rules. Elmo keeps us posted about a lot of things in a direct aside to camera that works well some of the time, but occasionally distracts. Nyst uses a couple of other attention-grabbing techniques including occasional reference to Elmo's Granddad Old Peppermint Jack, whose life rules are not only funny, but filled with truths. Rules like 'Never take a drink from a bloke you wouldn't want to drink with'; 'Lay down with dogs and you'll come up with fleas'; 'If you're in for the sweets, you're in for the sours'. There's a distinctive 'Crooked Business speak' too, with an entire new vocabulary that ranges from underworld jargon to Aussie colloquialisms. Expressions like 'use your scone, what's the wack, gooey, grub, ridgey didge, tight as a fish's clacker.'
Gebert is charismatic as the protagonist Elmo and Firass Dirani is terrific as his good pal 'Stand Up Steve' (so called because he won't stay down). I also like Anh Do's naïve Benny Wing, who flogs disabled stickers 'that look ridgey didge', Hugh Parker's former safe-cracker London Mick ('That's the trouble with this bleedin' country; everyone's on bleedin' holidays') and Kelly Atkinson's Cher who has useful hidden talents. Add a money grubbing lawyer, the club act whose props include ping pong balls and a rubber snake, crazed Chinese martial arts thugs, a crime boss with the unlikely name of Four B Two Lou and you will get the idea of how crooked this Crooked Business can be. All the cast delivers and as the characters weave in and out of hot water, there are great lines like 'If brains were dynamite, he wouldn't have enough to blow his nose' and 'If it floats, flies or fornicates, you're better off to rent it'. Set in Surfer's Paradise ('more flash cars, top sorts and lazy cash than you can point a pointy stick at'), there's a good sense of place with a mix of beach, bright lights and a sprinkling of tacky glitz.
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CHRIS NYST INTERVIEW
CROOKED BUSINESS (MA15+)
CAST: Teo Gebert, Firass Dirani, Kelly Atkinson, Hugh Parker, Anh Do, Anthony Brandon Wong, Woody Naismith, Brad McMurray, Scott Corfield, Jay Laga'aia, Chris Betts, Ron Kelly, Danny Raco
PRODUCER: Scott Corfield, Cherie Orevich
DIRECTOR: Chris Nyst
SCRIPT: Chris Nyst
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Mark Wareham
EDITOR: Tom Nikkinen
MUSIC: Jeff van Dyck
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Sharon Murakami
RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Picture Show Distribution
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 16, 2008