Review: Son of a Gun
19 year-old Brenton Thwaites gets sent to the slammer for 6 months for an unstated minor crime, and learns to harden up ASAP. Observing him is veteran hard man prisoner (and murderer) Ewan McGregor, who agrees to bring Thwaites under his protection when the latter gets targeted by inmate thugs. They also have a common affinity for chess. Yes, chess. However, gaining McGregor’s protection will require Thwaites to do McGregor a solid in the future. When Thwaites’ 6 months are up, he is to organise for McGregor’s bust from prison (quite similar to a couple of real-life Aussie prison busts, actually) with some outside contacts. Once McGregor and his right-hand man Matt Nable are busted out, Thwaites ends up being taken under McGregor’s wing and joins them on a pretty big heist. Unfortunately, things start to go pear-shaped, and Thwaites learns that he’s pretty expendable to the increasingly paranoid McGregor, whom the orphan had previously seen as kind of a father figure to him. Alicia Vikander plays the occasional mistress of McGregor’s Russian mob boss associate, who becomes involved with Thwaites. Damon Herriman plays a clearly buzzed (to say the least) bogan arms supplier for McGregor, and former stunt man Nash Edgerton plays a race-car driver who acts as getaway driver for the crew.
Although not always believable, this 2014 Aussie crime pic from writer/director Julius Avery (a short film director making his feature-length debut) and co-writer John Collee (“Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World”, “Creation”) is pretty enjoyable stuff. Ewan McGregor, slightly exaggerating his natural Scottish brogue is particularly enjoyable, with a well-cast Matt Nable and a pretty amusing Damon Herriman providing solid support. The latter sports a stringy mullet and tattoos, and for some bizarre reason likes to play music at the wrong speed. This guy is off his nut…and scarily armed to the teeth. It’s a shame the character isn’t in the film more. Some might find McGregor a strange casting decision for an Aussie film, but Australia is a multicultural country, so it’s an easy sell for me. He’s always been popular with the ladies, but he’s always been capable of playing characters that have a harder edge to them, so playing a hardened criminal is no stretch for him, either. It’s not like he’s Robert Pattinson or whatever. Ewan can be intimidating when he needs to be.
Local boy Brenton Thwaites is OK in the lead, but I had problems with casting the most QLD-looking actor around to play a guy who supposedly can’t swim. The actor is from Cairns, originally and is best-known in Australia for a short stint on the soapie “Home and Away”, which although set in NSW, is set in a beachside town. I’m sure there are people in Queensland who can’t swim, but it’s not an easy sell on screen, not for me at least. Also, his character is meant to be a chess savant, but he’s far too surfer dude to convince in that respect for mind. In other facets of his character, he’s perfectly fine, but I do have those two reservations about his casting. More of a problem is recent Oscar winner Alicia Vikander, whose presence here is kind of baffling to me. She’s saddled with (I think) a Russian accent, and it’s not working for her. I didn’t believe her performance in the slightest, and felt her presence wasn’t particularly necessary or beneficial to the film. Otherwise, there’s not much to complain about for me here.
What starts out as a prison movie is actually kind of a heist/getaway movie at the end of the day, and an overall pretty solid one. Ewan McGregor is particularly fine. If you like crime pics and prison flicks, this one gives you a two-in-one deal, and it’s not a terribly lumpy blend, either.