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NBFF 2014 Review: ‘Felony’

felonyI only checked out one film on Sunday, for the Newport Beach Film Festival, but it was an interesting Australian crime drama serving as a morality tale and a showcase for the three lead characters. Felony features some strong performances, with Tom Wilkinson, in particular, making a good case for why he is almost always enjoyable in whatever role is given to him. The idea of seeing not just two, but three sides of the law makes for an interesting story to be told and Felony works that angle about as far as it can go, before settling in a way that left me satisfied.

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The story involves three police detectives. It begins with Mal Toohey (Joel Edgerton), a good cop that takes a bullet in his vest, following a chase that opens the film. A celebratory party is had later, as Toohey was involved in a big drug bust that led to said chase. After having a few drinks at the party, Toohey drives home, only to accidentally knock over a kid on a bike. He calls in the accident, but denies any involvement. Enter Detective Carl Summer (Tom Wilkinson) and his new by-the-book partner Jim Melic (Jai Courtney). Carl does what he can to help Mal stay out of the spotlight, but Jim is not so sure about the story that Mal is telling about the situation. The rest of the film deals with the struggle of whether or not the truth needs to be revealed.

For one, it was nice to finally see Jai Courtney in a good movie. After being in the worst Die Hard and I, Frankenstein and Divergent, I have been worried that the former Spartacus: Blood and Sand star was never going to get a break, despite making understandable choices. In Felony, while it does help that this is a much smaller indie film, shot in his native Australia, he is given the chance to play a character with clear motivations to be the best cop he can be. He is essentially on the Guy Pierce side of the spectrum in LA Confidential terms, as Jim Malic is the kind of cop that wants everyone, cops included, to own up to their transgressions. I wish a bit more control was taken in his attempts to befriend the family of the injured boy, but for the most part, Courtney did just fine for a change, which I appreciated.

Joel Edgerton is an actor I have been admiring for some time now, as he has made his way to the U.S. and is slowly building up his presence, with films like Zero Dark Thirty and The Great Gatsby allowing him to become more familiar with audiences. Felony finds him back at his roots though, as he wrote and produced this film, much like The Square, a nifty little neo-noir from 2008. Both The Square and now Felony find characters in situations they wish they were not in and feel guilt for it, but Felony affords Edgerton the opportunity to play the lead and really sell the turmoil he is going through in an understated sort of way. It is a quiet, but effective performance.

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Lastly, Tom Wilkinson is pretty wonderful as Det. Summer. This is an older cop, who is all for putting away the true criminals, but finds fault with going against one of his own. He is the kind of guy that understands that Mal did a bad thing, but the film also has him dealing with some horrible criminals and does not understand why his partner won’t leave a cop’s unfortunate error alone, in favor of going after those who are truly in the wrong. Not that I am on Summer’s side, in terms of how to handle Mal, but I enjoy the energy that Wilkinson brings to this role. He adds sloppiness to the character that masks a really good cop, with a predilection to lean on the rules from time to time. Because it is Wilkinson, the fact that Summer is given a lot of monologues is not as bothersome as it could have been, but sometimes there are some drawn out lectures that find his character really spelling out things more than they needed to be.

Directed by Matthew Saville, Felony is well-produced for the most part, allowing a lot of handheld work to better communicate the chaotic nature of Mal’s life, while keeping things quite stable when focused on Jim. It is a natural way to visually spell out who is in control, but effective nonetheless, as the film does rely on having morality play the biggest role in putting this whole thing together. By the time the film arrives at its conclusion, there is something interesting to be said for how the film wants its viewers to put things together. Whether or not one takes it a certain way will depend on who you believe to have the right say in all of this.

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Click on the poster to visit the Newport Beach Film Festival website,
and be sure to check back to Why So Blu throughout the week
for more of my coverage of the festival!

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Aaron is a writer/reviewer for WhySoBlu.com. Follow him on Twitter @AaronsPS4.
He also co-hosts a podcast,
Out Now with Aaron and Abe, available via iTunes or at HHWLOD.com.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

1 Response to “NBFF 2014 Review: ‘Felony’”


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