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SXSW: Quint loves up on Aussie noir THE SQUARE!!!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with a look at one of the only films of SXSW that I’ll have seen twice, an Australian thriller called THE SQUARE. Now, my original plan for the day had me doing an interview with Nash Edgerton, director of THE SQUARE, and then heading over to see Tim McCanlies’ THE 2 BOBS, but I found as I spoke with Nash about the film, both for the interview and then for about 25 minutes afterwards, that I was itching to see it again and it was only playing once during the fest (which is stupid of the programmers… they need to throw this one in at least once more during the fest). Then I ended up running into trouble with transportation, Moriarty and Kraken depending on me for a ride… So, it was a quick and easy decision to blow off THE 2 BOBS… hell, the other two movies I saw tonight were at the S. Lamar anyway. Having seen it two times, both on the big screen, but the first time with an audience of maybe 3 critics, including myself, I can safely say that THE SQUARE will be remembered as the launching point for a hopefully fascinating career from the duo of Nash and Joel Edgerton. Nash acts as director and Joel is an actor and writer. You might remember Joel for his tiny appearance in the prequels as young Uncle Owen. Now, I was familiar with Nash Edgerton as a filmmaker before seeing this movie because of… well, the internet. His short film, Spider, was traded around like crazy, spreading through my group like wildfire about a year ago. If you haven’t seen it, I’m going to link to it below. It’s 9 minutes, but great. You’ll love it, trust me.

Told you it was great. Now, his debut feature film is drastically different (minus a few surprises), more of a gritty noir tale about a man having an affair and trying to get enough money together to run away with his mistress. Of course, like any decent crime story this one goes to hell spectacularly. I’ve described this film to friends as a quicksand movie. It’s like A SIMPLE PLAN in that regard. The film is about good people doing morally ambiguous or even shady things and then trying to get out of their predicament, but the more they struggle the quicker they sink and the more desperate their situation becomes. Australian character actor David Roberts (who had bit parts in the MATRIX sequels) plays the lead. He’s not your typical leading man. He’s dour, graying at the temples... In short, he’s a regular guy who is handsome enough to warrant the affections of the gorgeous Claire van der Boom, but not a chiseled movie star. And van der Boom has a tough role here. She could have easily gone full on femme fatale, pulling the strings to get what she wants… there is a little of that in her character, but honestly that’s not her main motivation. She genuinely loves Roberts’ Raymond. You can read it on her face. When she stumbles upon her criminal boyfriend’s stash of money, she doesn’t want it out of greed, but sees it as her key to escaping her life and being able to start anew with Ray. In order to steal it and get away with it, they go all Hans Gruber… they try to make sure they’ll never be suspected by organizing the burning down of the house. While they weigh the pros and cons of this, Ray is also getting a kick-back at work. He runs a large construction site, building a resort, and hires a concrete guy under the condition he gets $40k kicked back to him. I’m sure you can already tell this dude has too many plates spinning. He’s not a criminal, but suddenly he’s active in that world. Since he isn’t a criminal, he finds an arsonist to hire to set the fire. Of course, the plan is that van der Boom switches the money bag right before, so her criminal mulleted boyfriend Smithy (Anthony Hayes) assumes the bag of money went up in smoke. That way it’s clean. No suspicion, nobody gets hurt and the two love-birds can elope. Of course things go very wrong and the thriller aspect comes into play. There’s blackmail, revenge, guns, fire, tears, car chases and murder. What really impresses me about this film is the attention to making each and every character gray. There is not one good character or one evil character in this movie. Anthony Hayes could and should be the villain, but he’s not. You don’t get the feeling he’s abusing his girl, just taking her for granted. The arsonist, played by screenwriter Joel Edgerton, is probably my favorite character outside of the lead. He has a young woman living with him (played by Hanna Mangan Lawrence)… they don’t explicitly say who she is… She could be his sister or girlfriend. She’s a bit young for the latter, but I won’t judge. Anyway, the feeling I get is she’s Edgerton’s anchor, keeping him from the darkness. She’s scared of him, but he’s very gentle with her. There are fire scars on his arms and when he sets out to start the fire that really kicks things into high gear she nervously watches him prepare and he has to promise her that this is just something he has to do, that he won’t stay and watch. Nash and Joel Edgerton along with co-screenwriter Matthew Dabner make the audience pay attention. They don’t spell everything out. It took me the second viewing to hear the TV broadcaster talk about an armed robbery, which is the origin of the money… but the way they present it is as a throwaway after another bit of news that is crucial to the scene. The flick is very smart and draw you in immediately. Nash Edgerton is a natural director, having used the last decade or so as a stunt man to really soak up how movies are made… And by the way, it’s shocking to me that this film was directed by a stunt man. Nash worked on the prequels (Ewan McGregor’s stunt double… heard a story about how he got really hurt during the Jango/Obi-Wan fight in Episode 2) as well as the MATRIX movies. But THE SQUARE is the type of slow-build intricate and layered film you’d expect out of a film grad who was obsessed with noir. There are very few action scenes and those that are in the movie aren’t at all flashy, keeping the film real and down to earth. Edgerton has an eye for composition, editing and is able to transfer a real energy onto the screen. I think we’re going to be seeing big things from him. Same goes for Joel, both as an actor and screenwriter. His work on character in the script is fantastic for the reasons I’ve already gone in to above. I just wanted to underline his contribution to this flick before ending this review. Pathé has this film in France and it was released in Australia, but as of now it does not have a US distributor. I heard rumblings tonight that might change, but I think it’s a sure bet someone will pick this up. It’d be a tough sell for the mainstream, but I think there are plenty of adult film-goers who would show up to support something this good.

You can visit the official site here and view the trailer! Anyway, I’m going to wrap it up and catch some sleep. Another big day tomorrow, but look for reviews of THE SNAKE and ONG BAK 2 soon! -Quint

Readers Talkback
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  • March 14, 2009, 5:04 a.m. CST


    by Cole_El

    I didnt read the story, i just wanted to be first

  • March 14, 2009, 5:20 a.m. CST


    by BlackJesus

    My first second...nice.

  • March 14, 2009, 6:22 a.m. CST


    by Conqueror Worm

    I liked it, its true that mum was always right.

  • March 14, 2009, 6:26 a.m. CST

    This just came out on dvd

    by red_weed

    here in australia. I'm always resistant to watch australian films, coz they are normally crap, but i'll be getting this out to have a look. Pity there is so much boring drama stuff made here that I automatically decide not to see any of our films at the cinema, I miss out on stuff like this. I shall have to change that.

  • March 14, 2009, 6:41 a.m. CST

    Joel Edgerton is well known in Australia.

    by MMacKK

  • March 14, 2009, 7:50 a.m. CST

    Edgertons are very trendy in Australia...

    by quantize

    at the expense of equally talented directors and writers who also deserve some chummy funding.

  • March 14, 2009, 7:59 a.m. CST

    Blue Milk is Yummy

    by Jedibobster

    Consider that added to my 'To- See' list. That's also the first time I've seen SPIDER. Good stuff, well worth giving up 9 minutes of your internet time for.

  • March 14, 2009, 8:34 a.m. CST

    Er...How much are they paying you?

    by WhinyNegativeBitch

    The short sucked, The Square fucking sucks. Plus the Edgerton brothers are nepotisitc douchebags to boot.

  • March 14, 2009, 3:20 p.m. CST

    Spider was brilliant.

    by Grievey

    Wow, did NOT expect that. When they were in the car driving I was thinking "Okay, car accident? On their way to a bank robbery? He gonna propose?" <BR><BR> It was great. Made you feel everything at once, worry for the girl and then a big fucking laugh when the needle goes into the eye. Definitely want to see what's up that director's sleeve. w00t, someone to watch, thanks Harry!

  • March 14, 2009, 4:46 p.m. CST

    Spider is Awesome!

    by frakthetoasters

    that was cool. Scary. But cool.

  • March 14, 2009, 6:21 p.m. CST

    Wholeheartedly agree

    by Viginti_tres

    This is a great film and the only thing to come out of our film industry that was enjoyable in quite some time. The Edgertons are definately going to be something special if they are given the chance to make a few more films, unfourtunately the film flopped here so they are really relying on somewhere like the US to get them some recognition. Hopefully there are more reviews like this out there that will help them do that.

  • March 14, 2009, 6:55 p.m. CST

    Never seen Spider before

    by Happyfat73

    Shocking and brilliant. What a great short!

  • March 15, 2009, 1:04 a.m. CST


    by Rain_Dog

    Name names please. I'm not sold on the Square, although I do intend to see it, but who are these equally talented filmmakers? I see a lot of Australian indies as I run a specialist video shop, and frankly 99.99% of them are a load of ridiculous old toss, just like the bulk of our more mainstream efforts.

  • March 15, 2009, 2:40 a.m. CST

    Really liked this

    by Mr_Sinister

    Missed out on seeing it at the cinema, but just caught it on DVD. Great stuff. Last year the the Melb Film Fest I saw Joel Edgerton and Hannah Mangan Lawrence in another flick called Acolytes. Edgerton plays a serial killer and it has a nasty little ending.

  • March 15, 2009, 9:45 p.m. CST

    This failed badly in Australia

    by OutlawsDelejos

    The brothers were really hurt by the reaction, I picked it up at the video store and then put it back down. I think it falls into the category of "I know it'll be good, but I don't feel like watching it." I'll definitely get it next time though. Sorry boys.