With the likes of David Michod and Justin Kurzel both making powerful, indelible dramas on home soil in Australia, it gives hope to the industry and other young filmmakers. One of which is Julius Avery, who has evidently been inspired by these directors when creating his debut feature: the hard-hitting and unforgiving Son of a Gun.
Brenton Thwaites plays JR, an opportunist young criminal who makes friends with the revered, menacing Brendan (Ewan McGregor) in prison. It turns out – as one of Australia’s most notorious criminals – he’s quite a handy person to know: epitomised when he formulates a successful prison break and the two hit the road as fugitives. Given JR’s vital involvement, he is under Brendan’s protection; which is a double-edged sword, as the youngster spirals deeper into a hole, never quite sure if he can trust his new accomplice or anyone around him for that matter – including the beguiling and elusive stranger, Tasha (Alicia Vikander).
The film begins in quite breathtaking fashion with an intense, compelling opening act in the prison where JR and Brendan first meet. There are shades of Starred Up while we watch on as this fearless young criminal mixes with the big boys. However Avery’s feature loses its way dramatically after the prison break, becoming a far more generic thriller that we’ve seen countless times before. A completely superfluous romantic narrative is introduced with Tasha, and we lose sight of any of the ingenuity that made the first quarter of an hour so captivating. Which is a shame, as being a film that follows fugitives it should incite suspense, but instead takes a more passive turn. Thwaites doesn’t help in this instance, and while undoubtedly a talented actor, he doesn’t quite lead the movie in the way he should – being too unassertive to fully invest in. Thankfully the same can’t be said of McGregor, who turns in the most accomplished performance by some distance.
Despite the flaws there are undoubtedly positives to be taken from this picture, and a promising career in the industry could well beckon for Avery. Plus, the film’s setting with the serene, striking backdrop of Western Australia looks really, really lovely too – and that’s always a bonus.