Part gritty prison drama, part hard-boiled gangster thriller and part crafty heist caper, Australian writer-director Julius Avery’s feature debut, Son of a Gun, switches genres with profligate ease, pilfering from the likes of A Prophet and Heat as it goes.
The resulting movie may not add up to more than the sum of its parts, but Avery’s brisk handling ensures that the switchback narrative never bores, even if he does rather overdo the symbolism involving chess playing (who are you: king or pawn?) and different types of apes (from whom do you descend: violent chimp or loving bonobo?). And when the plot veers in some far-fetched directions, his trio of leading actors, each starring in an atypical role, keep things more or less on track.
Brenton Thwaites, recently seen as a fairytale prince in Maleficent, is convincingly wet-behind-the-ears as 19-year-old young offender JR, who gets taken under the wing of Ewan McGregor’s ruthless career criminal Brendan Lynch when he ends up in prison for six months. The protection comes at a price, of course, and JR’s payback embroils him in a bold jailbreak and an equally audacious gold-bullion robbery from a desert mine.
Yet even riskier is getting mixed up with gangster’s moll Tasha (Swedish actress Alicia Vikander, on a roll following standout performances in Testament of Youth and Ex-Machina). How the story eventually pans out is only minimally credible, but for all its flaws Son of a Gun remains a solidly entertaining crime film debut.
Certificate 15. Runtime 109 mins. Director Julius Avery.
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