The Movie Waffler New Release Review - <i>Son of a Gun</i> | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - Son of a Gun

A young inmate helps bust a notorious criminal out of an Australian prison before becoming embroiled in a gold heist.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Julius Avery

Starring: Brenton Thwaites, Ewan McGregor, Alicia Vikander

For the past couple of decades, we've seen a raft of British and French imitations of the American crime movie. The results have generally been laughable in their attempts to compete with the likes of Michael Mann in terms of slickness. British and French crime movies are at their best when portraying gritty realism; when the sub machine guns come out it's just not believable. Son of a Gun is first time director Julius Avery's attempt to transfer the US crime movie to an Australian setting, and he pulls it off to a degree, largely because the Aussie locale is a more convincing double for the American landscape than the streets of London and Paris.
Avery has attracted an international cast that lends the film some extra gravitas. Young Aussie star Brenton Thwaites has recently become the latest Hollywood teen idol thanks to roles in Oculus, The Giver and Maleficent, and here he gets a chance to play a tough guy, albeit one largely out of his depth. At the start of the movie his green around the gills convict JR enters prison with a shaggy surfer 'do before immediately having his head shorn. This doesn't stop him gaining unwanted attention from a group of bull queers. His ass is quite literally saved by the intervention of feared inmate Brendan Lynch (McGregor, thankfully keeping his native Scots accent), who offers JR protection if he'll help him and his buddies break free.
Released early for good behaviour, JR is set up in a plush villa by Sam, an Eastern European villain who wants Lynch broken out of jail to take part in a gold heist. Pulling off an extravagant breakout involving a stolen helicopter and blazing machine guns, JR finds himself taken under Lynch's wing as the men prepare to rob a gold mine. Complicating matters is JR's risky burgeoning relationship with Tasha (actress of the moment Vikander), a pretty immigrant who Sam keeps around "to make him look good."
The movie's strongest scenes are those early ones involving JR's prison bonding with Lynch, coming off like an Aissie riff on last year's impressive UK behind bars drama Starred Up. There's a grit to this sequence that's immediately cast aside for Hollywood theatrics once the meat of the plot kicks in and the machine gun shootouts and car chases are rolled out. Much of the movie feels like we're simply treading old ground in a new surrounding, but McGregor is surprisingly intimidating as the hardened, cynical criminal, and Thwaites' wide-eyed naivete works perfectly for his rookie gangster. It's Vikander who quietly steals the show, as she did in Ex Machina, even if she's playing a composite of femme fatale cliches.
Ultimately there are a few too many predictable double-crosses and more false endings than a Peter Jackson trilogy, but Avery's confident and ballsy direction will surely mean his future lies in making Hollywood movies as opposed to imitating them.