Directed by Kriv Stenders (“Red Dog”, “Boxing Day”) and written by James McFarland (in what appears to be his maiden effort as screenwriter) this black comedy and film noir spoof, with its limited theatrical and video on demand release is quite amusing and gives Simon Pegg fans a chance to see him with a Poncho Villa mustache and dark hair. Starring Pegg, Alice Braga (“Predators,” “I am Legend”), Luke Hemsworth, brother of Chris aka Thor, Callan Mulvey, Sullivan Stapleton, Bryan Brown (“FX,” “Cocktail”) and, an apparently pregnant, Teresa Palmer, the movie moves at a frantic clip and does try a little too hard to entertain.
That said, it is still entertaining, with Alice Braga playing against type as victim and Pegg playing what must be the world’s most incompetent assassin. The story begins with what must be the worst voice over Pegg has ever done. It is not the “Shaun of the Dead” star’s fault, however, it is McFarland’s dialogue. Stiff and clumsy, the opening words of the dying “hit man” are an instant turn off.
If one sticks with the film and ignores the awkward beginning, the movie does pay off. The plot has Braga as Alice Taylor, wife of hotelier Jack (Mulvey). Her hubby is an extremely jealous type and a bit too ready with his fists. Somewhat understandably, Alice has run to the arms of petrol station owner Hemsworth who plays hunky Dylan Smith. Smith may be what Mrs. Taylor prefers, but in the overall scheme of things, he is a muscle bound chap with a diminished brainpan.
The interweaved plot thread has 250,000 Australian dollars going from one person to another. A dentist with a terrible gambling problem, whose wife Lucy (Palmer) sets up her brother Jack’s wife in an insurance scam. Pegg is the other interwoven piece of this plot line and his hired assassin is either too drunk to operate his weapons properly or is the worst shot in the history of killers for hire.
The musical score is reminiscent of Robert Rodriguez’s grindhouse offering “Planet Terror” a kind of 70s noir with twanging guitars and synthesizers. Although there is a sort of Tarantino feel in some places, it is Planet Terror that this film’s soundtrack takes it cues from.
Pegg’s character seems to have been written by McFarland as a sort of homage to many of his prior roles. There is even a direct nod and wink to Sgt. Angel from “Hot Fuzz,” “look at his arse.” Charlie Wolfe (Pegg) is a construct of Simon’s other roles, from “Spaced” to “The World’s End.”
This is a problem, along with the stilted dialogue and the accent Wolfe spouts. Since the character is driving an American car, it seems that he may be a “yank,” or at the very least a tourist, but there are those dead give-a-way British pronunciations that mess things up.
Bryan Brown makes an impressive local baddie and although it’s been a long time since “FX” and “Cocktail” the Australian actor still has those impressive acting chops. Teresa Palmer looks enough like Elizabeth Montgomery that if a biopic were ever done, she would fit the lead like a glove.
Speaking of Palmer, she looks to be impressively pregnant and despite Stenders’ best attempts, it is very noticeable. The actress has come a long way since her debut in the J Horror sequel “Grudge 2.”
All the characters in the film almost appear to be stereotypes of Australian types. While this does not detract from the movie itself, it would be interesting to see what the country thought of this decision. Colloquial opinions aside, these “types” work very well for the movie’s plot.
The film feels a little like a noir-ish updating of the 1963 film “Comedy of Terrors” with Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Basil Rathbone and Boris Karloff. Both films feature a character that deals in death and both feature another character that refuses to die.
The cinematography is crisp and clear and the scenery is spectacular. Being a hopeless fan of Australian cinema, I liked the film. Pegg’s character is not a nice chap, and despite the inept nature of his hit man and his genuine delight at the turn of events, he still comes over as likeable.
Releasing the film with a limited theatrical run, coinciding with a video on demand option seems to have been a wise move. The film is, perhaps, a bit too eclectic for the main stream and while Simon Pegg fans may like the movie, it may have a hard time finding an audience.
Still worth a look, or two, and overall the blackly comic noir spoof is enjoyable and despite some plot holes here and there, worth the time spent watching it. A solid 3 out of 5 stars.
22 April 2015