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SWERVE

SYNOPSIS:
Nursing his overheated car along the open road, Colin (David Lyons) sees another sedan swerve hard to avoid an oncoming convertible, driven by Jina (Emma Booth). The sedan overturns, killing the driver. Colin discovers a briefcase full of cash beside the wreck, which he goes to hand in at the next town, Neverest. The town cop, Frank (Jason Clark) locks the case in a cell, and offers to put Frank up for the night so he can get his car fixed by the local mechanic. But when Frank begins to suspect there is more to Colin and his abused wife Jina and is dragged into a web of intrigue – with betrayal and stolen cash as ingredients – he finds himself a reluctant partner in a dangerous scheme.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The long, silent country roads through some of Australia’s empty landscape are interrupted by the small town of Neverest – just what the characters in this story get to do. (A dusty road sign at the start says it’s 22 kms to Neverest and 100 kms to Broken Hill, but the hills are a giveaway for South Australia, where it was shot.)

The film opens with great promise, wordless scenes building intrigue and tension. A case of money, a case of drugs, an explosive device, a deserted rendezvous – followed by a road accident, all told with images and music (Paul Grabowski at his most wonderfully creative and eclectic). Colin (David Lyons) is the one who finds the case of cash, which he takes to the town’s police station – via the pub.

The scene is set for a chain of events that eventually lead back to the town’s pub, involving a blonde femme fatale, Jina (Emma Booth), her abusive and corrupt husband the town cop, Frank (Jason Clark), the mysterious Charlie (Travis McMahon) and the innocent, naive Colin caught up in something he never quite understands.

The story convulses as it unfolds, with various elements straining credulity, even as a ‘potboiler’. Jina is secretive and has something to hide, not least the cash she takes out from her home safe early in the film. Colin is a jealous, thuggish character, and tough. He survives two hefty bashes to his head, a gunshot wound and being thrown down a disused mineshaft. 

Frank is a bit of a vanilla character, always behind the eight ball and not a mover and shaker of the story, but David Lyons does his best to give him the semblance of heroic honesty. It would have been a more successful screenplay had his been more clearly a hero’s journey. This is, after all, a thriller.

Inconsistencies also mar the film’s otherwise edgy tone: a headlight on Frank’s old BMW is pointedly broken during one early scene but is mysteriously unbroken in the next; the interior of Frank’s home is (an unlikely) upmarket two story house with a fancy swimming pool - but the exterior is a traditional one storey bush cottage just outside Neverest. This is probably the film’s gravest flaw; it survives the others and is in many respects interesting and engaging.

High profile vet thesps like Roy Billing, Chris Haywood and Robert Mammone get short shrift in the plot – more’s the pity, since they provide some of the marquee value for the film’s Australian release.

Review by Louise Keller
Paul Grabowsky's edgy score is a highlight of this taut thriller that rips along like a fast train on a track to nowhere. A cop with a temper, a girl in a convertible and a stranger passing through are the main players; it all starts when a car swerves on a deserted, dusty road not far from the dead-end town of Neverest. Craig Lahiff (Heaven’s Burning) has conceived and executed a tightly strung melodrama with elements of betrayal, greed and lust. Three top performances describe the characters; the vast Australian outback makes a formidable setting and most importantly, the sense of motion set by the music, takes us on an edge of seat journey, destination unknown.

There is no dialogue in the first six minutes of the film but the mood is clearly set by the relentless ¾ time signature of Grabowsky’s music. There’s a jolt when a car just misses a train. Briefcases containing money and drugs are exchanged and after a double cross, there’s an explosion, quickly followed by a spectacular car crash caused by the girl in the convertible, a smug look on her face. Although we never get to know any of the characters very well, we instantly get an idea of who they are and why they behave as they do by their actions.

Jason Clarke is excellent as the stranger who takes the briefcase full of $100 bills to the police station, where the cops are pretty casual. He’s been in Iraq and has seen a few bad things, so is perfectly placed to be the patsy of the salacious temptress, played to perfection by Emma Booth. Jina clearly has a past and is married to the town’s cop (Jason Clark), whose violent temper has had him transferred out into the sticks. Clark is perfect as the crooked cop whose ugly temper is an indelible stain.

While Grabowsky’s rhythmic themes offer a sense of danger, perpetual motion and a feeling of being out of control, there are contrasting musical styles such as that of the brass bands playing in Neverests’s Battle of the Bands, which aims to bring tourists to the desolate centre. Additionally, there’s the impact of Verdi’s Force of Destiny, used to great effect in a highly memorable scene in the pub, when a $100 bill is used as a coaster for a midi of beer.

With anger as one of the film’s main elements, all the tensions come to a head in the thrilling scenes onboard a speeding train, when all the players have everything to lose. Vince Colosimo and Travis McMahon also make a mark in small but important roles. The film whizzes by at top speed, delivering everything it promises yet manages to just leave us wanting. It’s a great recipe for a thriller.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

SWERVE (M)
(Aust, 2011)

CAST: Jason Clarke, Emma Booth, David Lyons, Travis McMahon, Vince Colosimo, Robert Mammone, Chris Haywood, Roy Billing, Greg Stone.

PRODUCER: Helen Leake, Kent Smith, Craig Lahiff

DIRECTOR: Craig Lahiff

SCRIPT: Craig Lahiff

CINEMATOGRAPHER: David Foreman

EDITOR: Sean Lahiff

MUSIC: Paul Grabowski

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Tony Cronin

RUNNING TIME: 85 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Jump Street Films

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 7, 2012







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