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The brothers Dale (Guy Pearce) Mal (Damien Richardson) and Shane (Joel Edgerton) are hardly out of jail when they’re into their next robbery – and as usual, no-one gets hurt. Their lawyer Frank (Robert Taylor) is part of the finely tuned criminal system, as are some bad cops like O’Riordan (Paul Sonkkila) and Kelly (Vince Colosimo). But when greed and sex – in the shape of Dale’s wife Carol (Rachel Griffiths) - fire up people like Frank. Who knows where the once nice ‘n easy business will end. 

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
If you haven’t seen it when it was in cinemas, The Hard Word is a bang up, laugh out loud, squirm and smirk sort of movie, gripping with its edginess, impressive for its razor sharp Australian dialogue and powerful for its truthfulness about the venality in the police system. But its towering achievement is in the portrayal of three brothers and their mateship as a fortress against the vicious world outside. Yet it is also a subtle work in many ways, preferring to draw the audience in, rather than letting it all hang out – even though it looks as though it does. (It was originally to be called Blood & Guts, but a previous film of that name forced a rethink.) 

Inspired by a variety of elements ranging from the 50s American show Bonanza (the brothers) to true stories about bad cops and good crims, writer director Scott Roberts has etched a cops and robbers story out of Australian gold, showing that genre filmmaking with Australian social icons is a valuable and valid exercise. Joel Edgerton confirms his prowess as one of this country’s most powerful character actors, a sort of young Jack Nicholson, working here with a talented and well directed ensemble cast. Guy Pearce is welcome home in a role that stretches him physically and mentally, and Damien Richardson does a remarkable job of the dopey but golden third brother. Rachel Griffiths and Robert Taylor are also terrific in crucial roles, and the film looks so good you don’t notice the production design. 

The same could be said for the music, but I did notice that, and love it. Ballsy, inventive and melodic at the right times, it avoids cliché without drawing attention to itself (other than to me, maybe…). In the final analysis, The Hard Word is a great escape movie with a wealth of characterisation to make it stick to you for a while. And some disturbing aspects to take to heart. 

Beautifully transferred to DVD in both vision and sound, the film retains its power on subsequent viewing and suffers nothing from being on the small screen. If anything, it grows more intimate – threatening at times with its explosive undercurrent of men and women in close confines and on the take. 

The music, too, seems to stand out (in a positive way) and given a chance to look a second time, it’s easier to see how good the production design is. 

The extras are made without a budget, I’d guess. The behind the scenes featurette is an edit of the electronic press kit, aggregating short excerpts from interviews with writer/director Scott Roberts, producer Al Clark, and the lead cast; the music video is a different edit, using multi-frames and graphic overlays; the isolated music score is simply the movie played without the dialogue and FX tracks; and the ‘meatierology’ is a few pages of text explaining the secret language of butchers as used occasionally in the film – and it’s surprisingly interesting.

The main extra is Scott Roberts’ commentary through the film, which is of the ‘explanatory’ kind. (Some directors tell anecdotes, others reveal their inner thoughts and feelings about the subject, others deconstruct the manufacturing process, etc.) The explanatory genre of DVD commentary is where the director narrates the film as it goes, explaining why certain scenes are there, sometimes revealing how it was shot in a hurry, or how the cast improvised. It fills out the context for the film.

Roberts also reveals how the idea for the film came to him in a dream, down to the most pivotal line – a casual observation by a crim as a car pulls up: “oh, it’s only the cops.” That’s the socially heartbreaking subtext of The Hard Word. 

Published December 12, 2002

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Congratulations to the winners of DVDs. They are: ACT: Reba Jacobs; NSW: Sacha Temple, Crosley Carpenter, Judy Deaves; QLD: Nick Borthwick; VIC: Debora Trela, Pam Phelan; WA: Adam Wolf, Bruce Haynes; TAS: Diedre Wilkinson

Prizes will be sent by Roadshow Entertainment







CAST: Guy Pearce, Rachel Griffiths, Robert Taylor, Joel Edgerton, Damien Richardson, Rhondda Findleton, Kate Atkinson, Vince Colosimo, Paul Sonkkila, Kim Gyngell, Dorian Nkono DIRECTOR: Scott Roberts

DIRECTOR: Scott Roberts

RUNNING TIME: 99 minutes (feature only)

PRESENTATION: 2.35:1 widescreen, 16 x 9 enhanced; DD 5.1; English subtitles for HI

SPECIAL FEATURES: audio commentary by Scott Roberts; behind the scenes featurette; isolated music score; Opening Theme music video; ‘meatierology’ of butcher-speak

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: December 12, 2002

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