Directed by: Scott Roberts
Written by:Scott Roberts
Starring: Guy Pearce, Rachel Griffiths, Robert Taylor, Joel Edgerton, Damien Richardson
Released: May 30, 2002
Grade: B+

Australian cinema has come a damn long way in the last ten years.  We’ve always had the talent and the creativity but lacked the finance and resources to prove it on the world stage.  With little cream on the top of the latest American crop, I’m proud to endorse two great new Australian films to be released this week.  Written and directed by newcomer Ivan Sei, Beneath Clouds won the Best First Movie Award at the very prestigious Berlin Film Festival.  But the film I’m hear to talk about is one which I’m sure will feature at this year’s Australian Film Institute Awards, The Hard Word.

Three brothers, Dale (Pearce), Shane (Edgerton), and Mal (Richardson) have just finished serving two years in prison for robbery.  Their “lawyer”, Frank (Taylor), has organised a bank hold-up for the trio on their day of release to give them back in the game.  Everything goes smoothly but Frank and his crooked cop friends have them spend three more weeks in jail as they wait for the aftermath of the robbery to subside.  Throw into the mix the fact that Dale thinks Frank is screwing his wife, Carol (Griffiths), and these three brothers believe their interests aren’t being looked after.

Frank then comes to them with the “big one”.  With the help of his Melbourne contacts, he’s orchestrated one of the biggest robberies in history to go down on the first Tuesday in November.  Thanks to a 50-1 outside bolting home in the Melbourne Cup, the bookies are cashed up with an estimated $20m being held for them at an exclusive inner-city hotel.  Get the idea?  But even if they can pull off this daring daylight heist, it’s going to be a matter of who to trust and a question of who’s playing for who...

Criminal comedies aren’t new but the Australian touch will gives it a big kick.  There’s a great chase scene through the streets of Melbourne which will be enjoyed by those who’ve been to the city.  Seeing Guy Pearce back in an Aussie film is a big release as I won’t be subject to his questionable Yankee accent.  He’s solid but Damien Richardson and particularly Joel Edgerton provide the standout performances.  Robert Taylor is very smooth and makes a great bad guy but Rachel Griffiths isn’t given enough time nor material for an actress of her capability.

Sure it’s a comedy but Scott Roberts has not spared us from the violence.  There are some gruesomely disgusting scenes and anyone who might be left squeamish by the violent gunplay should be prepared to avert their eyes (or even stay home).  I think it does much to the film in that it adds another dimension to the genre.  The sound is sensational and so is the slick, snazzy film score.  Overall, the production is awesome.

The screenplay is slightly narrow.  Sure it’s a comedy but hey, these robberies are just a little too easy for me.  A few more glitches or a little more planning would have done the trick.  There wasn’t enough material to challenge me intellectually but the stylish jokes were sufficient compensation.  Roberts has us rooting for these three brothers despite them being criminals - it’s fun sometimes to watch those being chased rather than focus on those doing the chasing.

At least for this week, we can forget about criticising cliched ridden American garbage and appreciate something closer to home.  The session I saw on Saturday night was a sell out and it’s validation that in our competitive culture, Aussies want to rally behind our own talent.  Expect big things and start spreading the “hard word”.