Dir: Scott Roberts. Australia. 2002. 103 mins.
Guy Pearce and Rachel Griffiths, two Australian actors running hot in the States, return home to lend class to this lively but otherwise undistinguished gangster comedy-thriller. Screenwriter Scott Roberts' directorial debut has plenty of bloodthirsty violence shared between a strong cast of tough guys - cops, crims and dodgy lawyers - plus a helping of nuzzled breasts and juicy sex. Certainly there's international potential to sell this to audiences eager for undemanding sex 'n' violence: on the eve of Cannes, Lions Gate secured all North American rights prior to the market screening. But the Australian idiom is thick ("He's had more clap than Don Bradman," says one villain) and, crucially, the unlikely plot fails to convince. The film had its Australian launch on 30 May on a bold 162 screens and took A$1.9m in its first two weeks, holding its own in a competitive market dominated by Star Wars - Episode II and Spider-Man.
The three bank-robbing Twentyman brothers - intense Dale (Pearce), plump Mal (Richardson) and angry Shane (Edgerton) - are released from a Sydney jail. Immediately they become involved in an armed heist, organised by their suave, corrupt lawyer Frank (Taylor) who has, so it seems, highly placed "inside men" including the prison governor, everywhere. He has also been sleeping with Dale's flighty wife Carol (Griffiths), whose blonde, self-serving attention can be bought with gifts and good living.
Unpaid and suspicious, the brothers are forced to return behind bars until Frank organises their further release, this time for "the big one" - a multi-million plan to rob top bookmakers gathered in an allegedly secure hotel to watch the nation's biggest and richest horse race, the Melbourne Cup. But all trust has gone. Dale plans a double-cross and so does Frank, forcing the brothers to work with some trigger-happy Melbourne heavies. Meanwhile the vampish Carol can't be trusted by anybody. Callous slaughter and casual torture ensue, mostly for comic effect. One baddie dies with a lava lamp rammed down his throat, while Frank is finally reduced to sausage meat and served as a breakfast menu item. Anything for a chuckle.
With scars and an unglamorous haircut, Pearce is neatly unheroic and his few scenes with an under-employed Griffiths certainly vibrate. But sharing the lead among three brothers - all kind-hearted, honourable and reliable - proves dramatically unhelpful. Their differences are established but never exploited; nor is their secret family language, which is given subtitles at first but soon then forgotten. It's just one of the loose ends that abound in this loud, amoral caper that's destined for a quick box office raid followed by years in the cooler.
Prod co: Wildheart Films
Aust/NZ dist: Roadshow Film Distributors
Int'l sales: Alibi Films International
Exec prods: Hilary Davis, Gareth Jones
Prod: Al Clark
Scr: Scott Roberts
Cinematography: Brian Breheny
Prod des: Paddy Reardon
Ed: Martin Connor
Music: David Thrussell
Main cast: Guy Pearce, Rachel Griffiths, Robert Taylor, Joel Edgerton, Damien Richardson