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Film Review: Son of A Gun

Written by: Leslie Pitt


Starting out like an Australian Starred Up (2014), crime thriller Son of a Gun soon reveals it’s far more indebted to the works of Michael Mann than anything else. The Mann inspired action sequences are some of the strongest elements of the film as is the films sparse Australian setting. Both do well to distract from the films quite typical narrative. Son of a Gun doesn’t stir the pot too much and because of this, there’s little spice to the ingredients. The stock characters and archetypal plot do little to surprise hardened fans of the genre. There is a substantial amount of enjoyment to take from this sun baked criminal frolic, even if it doesn’t raise the bar as the likes of Animal Kingdom (2010) did.

Brenton Thwaites plays JR, an orphan who is jailed for a minor offence and allows his temperament to get in trouble with the other screws. He luckily falls in with notorious armed robber Brendan Lynch (Ewan McGregor) whose watchful eye provides protection over the fellow inmates. Upon his release JR helps return the favour to Brendan, by playing a part of an outrageous prison break. As a reward for his services, JR is allowed to join Brendan’s crew and take part of a lucrative gold heist with the promise of riches. It’s clear however that there’s no honour with thieves, and JR is soon to find out that trust becomes elusive and even his former mentor may not be all he seems.

Water plays as obvious symbolism for JR, an orphan who is unable to swim. Three dramatic high SonofaGunpoints have JR submerged in various bodies of water and it becomes extremely clear that JR himself is literally “in too deep” with his cheerful criminal buddies. It’s a clear piece of imagery that displays the uncomplicated level the film is reaching for. A decent friend night with the boys flick, over anything deeper. A slight shame considering the richness that Australian cinema can reach.

As JR, Thwaites doesn’t give the rounded performance that he managed in Oculus (2013), and his boy band looks don’t give off the right “bad boy” vibes. Yet as a straight man, Thwaites’ is likable enough. McGregor fares better as the grubby and gruff Brenden, whose usual acting tics don’t full distract a viewer from the grim, proper nasty crim, which he’s supposed to be. Although if McGregor is aiming for the Liam Neeson style, aged action star, it may take more than a leap of faith for some to get behind him. However kudos is deserved for McGregor taking something that you wouldn’t think is in his wheel house.

Son of a Gun’s preposterous set pieces are really what the film is all about. Heavily inspired by the likes of Heat (1995), we see efficient and entertaining raids that get the blood pumping fast enough for you to totally ignore just how mistreated Alicia Vikander is as a character and a woman. The only major female role in the piece, Vikander’s only real role is to be femme fatale lite: to look pretty and cast shade. A frustrating aspect of the film that shows that if as her character was developed as well as the film’s heists, we could have had an intriguing female role to add to the mix. Son of a gun is a Boys night in flick for pizza and beer before a night on the razz. There’s enough testosterone in the film to keep the muscles tense, and I’m sure that’s what the makers are aiming for.