Barry Wirth (Sam Worthington) has done eight years inside for a murder he claims he didn’t commit during a robbery in which his major accomplice was the Aussie Gold Coast gangster Chicka Martin (Gary Sweet). He reckons it was crooked cop Arnie DeViers (David Field) who verballed him. Now he’s out on parole and wanting to ‘get square’ and look after his younger brother. His best friend Johnny ‘Spit’ Spitieri (David Wenham) is still hooked on drugs but also trying to ‘get square’ and is a go between for Darren ‘Dabba’ Barrington (Timothy Spall) who offers Barry a job in his so far empty Gold Coast restaurant. The tough new Criminal Investigation Commission is after all of them, and Barry has to stay out of trouble – but still ‘get square’.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
If you wanna know why the script rings with truth, look at the writer, Chris Nyst. It’s his first screenplay, but he’s a top criminal lawyer - that’s not ‘criminal’, that’s ‘lawyer specialising in crime’. You may have read his first book, Cop This (1999) …. So we’re off to a good start, combining characters drawn from life and a couple of genres: the caper film, the sting film and the Aussie battler subgenre of David and Goliath. The result is not pulp, though, and Jonathan Teplitzky (Better Than Sex) has done a terrific job directing a terrific cast, bringing all the characters to life, which fills out a trifle twisted plot that needs our concentration, especially at the end.
But it’s worth it. And we know that from the credits and the rap song over them, followed by some ECUs that really take us inside the skins and heads of this bunch of crims. This opening signals a fresh and spicy cinematic style from Teplitzky and first class work from cinematographer Garry Phillips. Teplitzky creates his own version of comedic crime drama that sidesteps the Tarantino school and works up a genuine Australian tone that is neither laboured nor restrained; that’s clever.
The dialogue and the delivery are perfectly married for maximum results, like David Wenham’s downbeat drug addict, which comes dangerously close to self-parody in one scene. And it’s Wenham who provides most – but not all - the laugh out loud scenes, with Timothy Spall, Gary Sweet and David Field memorable in roles that are new to them all. Sam Worthington makes a strong and satisfying leading man with great presence. Decency and a casual sexiness oozes out of him, and this role gives him the key to Hollywood, if he wants it. Machine Gun Fellatio’s music (Teplitzky calls it ‘greasy rock’) rips through the soundtrack (Groove Armada of the UK also shines), and there is also a great Nick Cave track (Into My Arms). Ken Sallow’s editing is beautifully pitched. In short, Gettin’ Square is a creatively exciting and commercially entertaining film.
Review by Louise Keller:
A scam, a switch, a bunch of scallywag characters and a sharp script make Gettin’ Square lively entertainment. The plot gets a bit complex at times and I did get a bit lost at one point, but it’s the colourful characters that appeal to me – each one is a bit behind the eight ball to begin with, but finds his way by hook or by crook (literally)! They’re all cons, ex-cons or crooked, and each has a different view of the world.
The result is an entertaining mix of funny and droll, plus screenwriter Chris Nyst brings his lawyer’s sense of the ridiculous to the screen. He also brings his home territory of Queensland along as the setting, although the story could really be set anywhere. Director Jonathan Teplitzky (Better Than Sex) has a clear vision for the film, blending the hyper-real with the naturalistic, and with each character playing a part in the story cohesive. Sam Worthington’s Barry makes a solid leading man: Barry was brought up with scruples and morals, and we trust him. Timothy Spall’s Darren is a wonderful character. He is the genuine reformed crim whose idea of reform may not be yours…. His self image as a new age bloke with his slimmer’s regime of walking each day and watching his diet brings many smiles, and he really endears us to him. Even though his criminal record would indicate otherwise, he is an optimistic innocent, believing that his Texas Rose restaurant (with its cow-hide décor and waitress with cow-hide bra-top) will succeed, but is incredulous and unbelieving when it does.
David Wenham’s big-time loser Johnny Spitieri is the big-time scene stealer, giving us ‘I can’t believe it even though I’m seeing it’ lessons in non-logic. Johnny is a slimy, gum chewing, pigeon toed loser who lives in thongs and has very little upstairs. The court room scene will you have you laughing in spite of yourself, how Johnny manages to turn the prosecution around to confuse everyone. Gary Sweet makes Chicka a great gangster, complete with golden tan, thick gold chains and ostentatious rings, while David Field’s vicious corrupt police officer makes us want to have a shower. Freya Stafford is impressive in her film debut as Annie, the community corrections officer whose interest in Barry is more than professional and there’s a host of interesting cameos by former European heavyweight champion Joe Bugner, comedian Ugly Dave Gray and Big Brother’s Gretel Killeen. There are winners and losers, but Gettin’ Square keeps up the heat and the cooking is always hot.
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DAVID WENHAM INTERVIEW by Andrew L. Urban
GETTIN' SQUARE (M)
CAST: Sam Worthington, David Wenham, Timothy Spall, Gary Sweet, David Field, Freya Stafford, Luke Pegler, David Roberts, Richard Carter, John Brumpton, Joe Bugner, Ugly Dave Gray
PRODUCER: Martin Fabinyi, Tim White, Trish Lake
DIRECTOR: Jonathan Teplitzky
SCRIPT: Chris Nyst
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Garry Phillips
EDITOR: Ken Sallows ASE
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Nicholas McCallum
RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hoyts
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 9, 2003
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Col TriStar Entertainment
VIDEO RELEASE: April 7, 2004