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SYNOPSIS: Locked up for a minor crime, 19-year-old JR (Brenton Thwaites) quickly learns the harsh realities of prison life. There is no survival guide. Protection - if you can get it - is paramount.?After a chance encounter, JR finds himself under the watchful eye of notorious criminal, Brendan Lynch (Ewan McGregor). But protection comes at a price; Lynch and his crew have plans for their young protŽgŽ and soon JR's debt is called in. Outside, JR must help secure Lynch's freedom, staging a daring prison break. As a reward, he's invited to join the crew as they plan a series of heists that promise to deliver millions. But as things start to go wrong, a deadly game of cat and mouse ensues and JR soon finds himself on a collision course with his former mentor, unsure of whom he can trust.

Review by Louise Keller:
The debut feature from Julius Avery, director of the award winning short Jerrycan, this enjoyable Aussie crime thriller holds its own, largely due to the winning combination of Ewan McGregor and Brenton Thwaites as the master crim and his apprentice. Fresh from his role as the protagonist in Phillip Noyce's The Giver, Thwaites plays JR, the rookie with whom we gain our first impressions of life behind bars, while McGregor's notorious criminal Brendan teaches JR there is no such thing as a free lunch. The film is at its best in the first half, when characters are established and debts incurred; things get a little forced and less than credible towards the end.

There are no half measures: it's all or nothing, Brendan tells JR when he finds that he needs protection against the incarcerated tattooed thugs who bully young prisoners. If I have a criticism, it is the way the establishment of the relationship between Brendan and JR evolves. The fact that JR shows the master crim a chess move is surely not enough for acceptance into the inner circle. But that reservation aside, the action hots up when JR is released after serving his six months and finds himself set up in a swish pad, with an ocean view where he meets a pretty girl called Tasha (Alicia Vikander). Leaving him with wads of money and a mobile phone, she tells him 'someone will ring and tell you what to do'. The phone rings, of course and instructions are given. By this time, he has learned that Tasha wears a good luck charm around her neck with the inscription 'things are not as you imagine.' We take note.
After an audacious jail escape, there's a wild plot involving the Russian mob, gold nuggets and some nasty characters who engage in double crosses and the like. But it is the relationship between Brendan and JR that forms the crux of the film; the prominence Avery gives the romance between JR and Tasha lessens the bite of the characters to some extent, working slightly to its detriment. The Australian cast is all excellent and Avery effectively keeps everything together. Things all seem a little pat as the exposition plays out, but the barren West Australian landscape provides an effective backdrop to the action and the production elements are excellent.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Great teamwork produces good movies, given the right script, and here is another fine Australian crime thriller in the wake of Felony (d: Matthew Seville, opened August 28, 2014). The latter co-stars British actor Tom Wilkinson, this one co-stars Scottish (and still British) actor Ewan McGregor. But while both international stars deliver, it is the Australian cast that carries the film, given a solid script and dynamic direction by Julius Avery.

Wrangling his first feature film, Avery fashions a gritty, authentic mood in the opening scenes among the prisoners in maximum security, and carries it through to the satisfying conclusion. Brenton Thwaites is well cast as the petty crim thrust into the big time, his teenage romanticism stretched and tested with violence and death. Thwaites remains credible throughout, as does the memorable Alicia Vikander as the migrant girl amidst the criminals whom he trusts despite some warnings.

McGregor as Brendan is perhaps the least authentic piece of casting as a vicious murderer, and while he seems to hold back from 100% commitment to the baddie character, he has a few credibly menacing moments. It's a mark of sophisticated casting, though, to have Jacek Koman as Sam the criminal mastermind, and Matt Noble as one of Brendan's closest associates.

Tom Budge as the nervy, trigger happy and edgy Josh is as terrific as always, while Nash Edgerton fills a small supporting role as the getaway driver with relish. He also has a hand in the stunts, which are all world class, notably a daring prison escape via helicopter.

Excellent production design from Fiona Crombie and a fine, multi-layered score from Jed Kurzel complete the teamwork with style.

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(Aust, 2014)

CAST: Ewan McGregor, Brenton Thwaites, Alicia Vikander, Matt Nable, Damon Herriman, Nash Edgerton, Jacek Koman, Tom Budge

PRODUCER: Timothy White

DIRECTOR: Julius Avery

SCRIPT: Julius Avery (John Collee additional material)


EDITOR: Jack Hutchings

MUSIC: Jed Kurzel


RUNNING TIME: 109 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 16, 2014

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