Three detectives - Jim (Jai Courtney), Mal (Joel Edgerton) and Carl (Tom Wilkinson) - become embroiled in a tense struggle after a tragic accident that leaves a child in critical condition. One is guilty of a crime, one will try to cover it up, and the third attempts to expose it.
Review by Louise Keller:
The swaying of the moral tightrope brings tension, contemplation and alarm in this taut and absorbing psychological thriller; the closer we look and the deeper we tread, the more we become sucked into the quagmire of deceit. Survival, self preservation and integrity jostle uncomfortably as the bruises of human flaws becomes evident. Joel Edgerton has conceived and written a cracker of a film that resonates at every turn, offering food for thought to society's issues and pressures and in particular in relation to the police force.
Edgerton, who also stars in the film, is ideal as the protagonist whose moral stance shifts and sways as circumstances change. Director Matthew Saville (Noise) has the material well in hand, maximizing the escalation of tensions prompted by events and inner conflicts. The three key characters that form the pivot of the moral conflict are superbly cast. Edgerton's distinctive features and likeable persona allow us to engage with Malcolm, the heroic officer who is one of the boys as well as a devoted family man. Jai Courtney impresses as Jim, the clean-cut cop intent on seeing justice served but quickly finds that it is not that simple. Tom Wilkinson is the big surprise: the English stalwart actor assumes a fine Aussie accent as Detective Carl Summer, as well as superbly creating a credible persona enhanced by body language and mannerisms.
There is a key moment, when Wilkinson uses a band as an analogy for the members of the police force, explaining how members of a band sing the songs whether or not they like the songs or not. 'It doesn't look good for the band if they don't stick together,' he says pointedly. It's a chilling scene and one that alerts us to the issue of control and the order of things.
But it is not only these three characters whose morality comes into play. Malcolm's wife Julie (Melissa George, excellent) and Ankhila (Sarah Roberts, vulnerable), the mother of the young boy knocked off his bike as he does his early morning paper round, also show their colours as they inadvertently become involved in events. The screenplay that evolves so naturally at the beginning becomes a little forced towards the end, seemingly in order for the events to fall as required. But this is a small quibble in what is otherwise a film that delivers a strong statement.
The curtains at the window blow in the wind - a little like the emotions and reactions that transpire in this hard-hitting drama in which lies and truths are bed partners, irrespective of the consequences.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
A rich and engaging screenplay that borrows from the police procedural and blends it with the themes of a morality play makes Felony compelling viewing. Needless to say, the characters and their make up are front and centre, while a secondary story offers action elements as the cops go about their duty chasing, fighting and arresting crims.
Joel Edgerton wears three hats: writer, producer and star, and as writer & one of the producers, his wishful thinking of getting Tom Wilkinson for the role of Carl Summer, which he wrote with Wilkinson in mind) was surprisingly fulfilled. And happily, because Wilkinson brings his screen authority and credibility to the character, whose grey morality is a perfect symbol for the film's strength. Few decisions in life are black and white, and sometimes a careless moment can lead us into dark and dangerous territory.
As star, Edgerton is by now well known for his masculine vulnerabilities in characters that range from squadron team leader in Zero Dark Thirty to Tom Buchanan in The Great Gatsby or Dave in Wish You Were Here. Here, as Mal, he shows us a character whose essential core of decency and principle are swayed in a moment of fear.
With minimalist power, Jai Courtney delivers a surprisingly complex, strong yet sensitive character as Jim, the cop with unshakable moral certainty, while Sarah Roberts makes an impact as Ankhila, the single mother whose son has been badly injured, and who is drawn into Jim's world. Melissa George has the toughest role, as Mal's wife, Julie, and she does it superbly, combining sensuality, strength and inner conflict in a memorable performance.
The screenplay brings out all the moral complexities of the situation with cinematic flair, propelled by Bryony Marks' terrific, sensitive score. If I have any reservations at all, they are to do with the ending and resolution, which lacks the punch the film deserves and demands. But in every other respect, Matthew Saville (Noise) has made a strong film from a strong screenplay and his cinematic judgements seem sound.
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JOEL EDGERTON & MATTHEW SAVILLE INTERVIEW
by Andrew L. Urban
CAST: Tom Wilkinson, Joel Edgerton, Jai Courtney, Melissa George, Sarah Roberts, Rose Lourde
PRODUCER: Rosemary Blight, Joel Edgerton, Michael Benaroya
DIRECTOR: Matthew Saville
SCRIPT: Joel Edgerton
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Mark Wareham
EDITOR: Geoff Hitchins
MUSIC: Bryony Marks
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Karen Murphy
RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 28, 2014