DIRECTED BY Scott Roberts
STARRING Guy Pearce, Rachel Griffiths, Robert Taylor
Opens September 12, Cert 18, 103 mins
According to its producer Al Clark (now occupying an entirely different stratosphere from when he used to be the PR supremo for Virgin Records in London), The Hard Word is “Michael Mann’s Heat re-imagined by the Coen brothers”. That’s a little far-fetched, but it does suggest something of the film’s mix of criminal camaraderie, fraught psychological gamesmanship, and a heist that goes black-comically wrong. At the same time, it’s the movie’s unmistakable Australianness, with its uncrowded streets, open spaces and outbursts of Aussie backslang, that lends it much of its lopsided appeal.
At the core of the plot are the Twentyman brothers, Dale, Mal and Shane, three Sydney bank robbers about to be released on bail thanks to a fix by their bent lawyer, Frank. Mal is the cheerful simpleton who dreams only of starting his own butchery business, Shane is a blonde psycho obsessed with his own body-beautiful, and Dale is the calm, analytical one, played by Guy Pearce with suppressed, smouldering menace.
The story pivots on Pearce’s twin relationships, one with his brothers and the other with his wife Carol. Pearce returned to the small pool of Oz flicks trailing clouds of glory from his work on LA Confidential and Memento, but he meets his match in Rachel Griffiths’ performance as Carol. Blonde, shaped like an hourglass on steroids and delivering violent jolts of fatal sexuality, Griffiths artfully keeps her performance just the right side of parody, while always viewing proceedings with a quizzically arched eyebrow.
It’s to the credit of the rest of the cast that these two didn’t swallow the picture whole. Robert Taylor’s portrayal of crooked lawyer Frank oozes the self-justifying arrogance of the truly deluded, as he unwisely allows his apparent control of the Twentyman brothers, and his network of warped coppers and corrupt judges, to go to his head. And you might have guessed that his sleazeball-on-heat pursuit of Carol would end in tears. The only duff character is a shotgun-wielding English?supposedly?psycho, which only proves that umpteen Ashes victories have taught the Australians nothing about the Old Country.