Movies You've Never Seen (and likely never will) Pt.1

Sunday, March 19, 2006 | 9:34 pm

The Hard Word (2002)
Rating: ¤¤¤½ –one star for each of the leads, and a little extra for keeping it interesting.

An Aussie/UK production doing occasional rotation on IFC this month, features Guy Pearce (L.A Confidential, Memento), Rachel Griffiths (Six Feet Under) and Joel Edgerton (King Arthur, Revenge of the Sith) in a crime movie that has wit and dark humour, but with an underlying hint of despair. Three brothers-in-crime, Dale (Pearce), Shane (Edgerton) and Mal trust noone but each other, and with good reason. Released from prison to do a job for a crooked lawyer and a bunch of crooked cops, they are promptly setup and sent back by Frank, the lawyer who is boning Dale's wife (Griffiths). The lawyer tells them they have one way out, to do one more big job down in Victoria, which turns out to be robbing the bookies in town for the Melbourne Cup, Australia's pre-eminent horse race of the year. Frank brings in some dubious muscle (our lads are not big on guns, although Shane has a very short temper and the ability to sniff out a lie), and with them being set up to be knocked off, things get bloody and the boys are on the run.

The movie has some odd moments in it, primarily related to the lads ill-fated attempts with women. Shane's hook-up with the prison psychiatrist, is oddly sweet for the angry bloke, but leads to nothing, almost as if the rest ended up on the cutting room floor. And Mal's infatuation with a drunken race-goer looks like it will go the distance, but takes a sad twist. Strange character moments for a crime movie, which is usually more caught up in ever-twisting plots than people.

In the end, it is this concentration on character and the dark edge that sets this one apart a from its slicker cousins, like Lock, Stock or Layer Cake. Our three crims are obviously flawed, and not exactly razor-sharp thinkers, but are shown as canny street-operators who have enough heart and character to make you care about their perils. Even the prison scenes in this movie have an unusual humanity to them, avoiding the "big mean men doing mean things to each other" stereotype. In the end, the bad guys are those with power, and lacking in scruples: bad cops, uber-slick lawyers, and the slutty wife who is short on emotion, but not on schemes.

Worth a viewing, see what you think.     

Like the sound of this? Try the somewhat lighter Two Hands with Heath Ledger and Bryan Brown.

"The hard word" is a slang expression for putting the squeeze on soemone.

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