Love. Love is the key. Love and family. For what are night and day, the sun, the moon, the stars without love, and those you love around you? What could be more hollow than to die alone, unloved?
I have simple tastes when it comes to films. All I want is an interesting story with good characters that have been well acted out and judging by that cast listed above and the trailer that you will find at the bottom of this review, I was very optimistic that this film would be excellent. 104 minutes later and it was neither interesting or particularly well acted.
There is no excuse for the poor acting as six of those seven are well known in Hollywood. Pearce has been in numerous big hits, as has Winstone, Huston is part of a famous acting family and has recently been involved in the Clash of the Titans reboot, Wenham played Faramir in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and John Hurt has been in more big films than I would care to list. There was no excuse for this film to be so horribly acted. No excuse whatsoever.
Infact, I’m going to go a long way to calling this film pretentious. It has a sweeping epic feel and a beautiful soundtrack accompanying it to it but ultimately leaves you disappointed after 104 minutes and having not heard of this film before the 24 hours prior, I wish I hadn’t heard of it. It’s a western style film that isn’t set in the west, infact it is literally as geographically far away from the wild west as you can get as it’s set in the Australian outback. Now, don’t get me wrong, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it often felt like the film was confused as to what it was trying to achieve.
Initially I had wanted to leave this review until at least a day after watching the film I had to start writing this straight away because quite frankly, it has annoyed me.
Following a shoot-out between the police and the Burns gang, Charlie Burns (Pearce) and his younger brother Mikey (Wilson) are caught and taken to a local police station. Captain Stanley (Winstone) decides to make a proposition to Charlie in that if he can bring his older brother, Arthur (Huston), to justice then he is prepared to let him and Mikey go, otherwise he will kill the latter.
As Stanley struggles to keep the vicious nature of the crimes that the Burns gang committed (such as murdering and raping a pregnant woman) quiet, Charlie races to find Arthur, but even when he does there is the understandable internal conflict. Could you kill one brother to save another, or would you do nothing and your inaction would cause the other brother to die anyway?
Stanley is also facing a wife who’s concerns grow with every day, a boss who wants him to make an example out of Mikey and various aboriginal tribes causing him issues.
So what are the main problems and are there any saving graces?
For what was an interesting concept for the film, and what is admittedly very beautifully made in terms of locations, costumes, etc, the film just seems like one big mess after another with only one bright spot.
Well first of all I find it very hard to route for rapists and murderers, even when they are put in a difficult situation. They’re not really protagonists, afterall, they are vile people and the only reason you half want Charlie to succeed is because Mikey is seemingly mentally handicapped and therefore more than likely had nothing to do with the raping and murdering. I would go as far as saying that the Mikey character is one of the few positives of an otherwise largely forgettable film.
Mikey was played excellently by Richard Wilson, especially in the scene where Mikey is forced to receive 100 lashes for his alledged involvement in the crimes, only making it into the 30s before passing out but not before unleashing a flurry of pain and emotion as he struggles to understand what is happening. Despite being the least experienced from the main cast, Wilson actually does a far better job than his more experienced counterparts.
Then we get onto the acting, if you can indeed call it that, provided by Emily Watson. There are few actresses with a less varied emotional range than Watson and in any film that I have seen her in, she has yet to produce a performance that convinces me that she should be in the movie industry. Her character plays a seemingly happily married woman that then finds out that her husband has been covering up that her pregnant friend was raped and murdered, all before having her life threatened on several occasions, and despite a character description like that, Watson doesn’t once move from the vacuous expression that she conveys in every performance.
This is Watson’s expression during the entire movie
Infact, it’s been quite some time since a performance has actually near enough single handedly taken this film from average to something I have no desire to watch again. Whilst the other performances, bar Wilson’s, are questionable, at best, Watson does what Dakota Fanning did to War of the Worlds and near enough completely ruins the film on her own.
I was also particularly surprised at Pearce’s performance. This is the same man who played the very animated Adam in “Priscilla : Queen of the Desert,” also set in the outback, and yet he gave a largely lifeless performance, rarely moving away from barren wasteland of emotions that accompanied his co-star. Now, I appreciate that the character isn’t going to be jumping for joy at the prospect of him being forced to choose between two brothers,
There is also precisely no bond seemingly between Arthur and Mikey, I don’t think the characters are on screen at the same time at any point, and they certainly don’t talk to each other on the screen, it’s just bizarre to that Arthur makes several long references to how family is important, yet doesn’t actually have a single interaction with one of his brothers on the screen.
Other that Watson’s “acting”, the only other thing that truly annoys me about this film is the characters talking at a volume where you can’t hear them. You can tell that a film has problems when even when at normal volume, you can’t understand what a character is saying to the point where you have to turn on subtitles. One scene in particular comes straight to mind when Watson’s character is in the middle of a bath and Stanley comes up behind her, they begin having a conversation without facing each other face to face, and yet Watson’s volume doesn’t change. If anything her volume gets lower.
I don’t like pretentious films. I didn’t like “There Will Be Blood” or “Valhalla Rising” (which will no doubt appear as a review on this website at some point in the near future) for pretty much the same reason. Yes, TWBB was slightly better acted, but it still had that delusion grandeur that realistically it didn’t deserve. That was nearly 3 hours of nothing except for a man going very slowly insane, and I found generally unenjoyable….and yet I would happily watch it again over this tedious film.
There aren’t many films that I dislike to the point where I would never watch them again, but as this film is never likely to be on British TV because it’s not very well known at all, I would literally have to go out of my way to watch it again and quite frankly there is more chance of Emily Watson having a second facial expression than me watching this film for a second time.
For me the ONLY positive in the film is Wilson’s performance and if he chooses to return to acting after going into education soon after filming “The Loved Ones” then he could be the next big thing to come out of Australia.
Avoid at all costs.