Foreign Objects travels the world of international cinema each week to look for films worth visiting. So renew your passport, get your shots, and brush up on the local age of legal consent, this week we’re heading to…
If and when we see the inevitable Hollywood remake of the recent Australian thriller The Square, I fully expect two immediate changes. The lead character’s name will be changed from Ray Yale to Ray Murphy, and the title will changed to Murphy’s Law. This has as much to do with Hollywood’s pronounced lack of subtlety as it does the fact that poor Ray Yale gets fucked repeatedly by that age old axiom over the course of the film.
Ray’s (David Roberts) life seems pretty straightforward at first. He runs a small but busy construction company, he’s married, and he has a sexy girlfriend named Carla (Claire van der Boom) on the side. This perfect little arrangement starts to unravel one day when those three aspects of his life collide. He’s taking cash kickbacks from one of his construction suppliers, his wife becomes suspicious of what his donger’s been up to, and Carla presents him with a dangerous proposition. Her husband, Smithy (Anthony Hayes), is hiding a bag filled with cash at home. She wants Ray to finally leave his wife and run away with her and the money. He reluctantly agrees, and the pair lay out a plan to burn Carla’s house down so her husband thinks the cash has been destroyed. Shockingly, everything that could possibly go wrong with their plan does so in spectacular fashion.
Director/co-writer Nash Edgerton has crafted a fairly intricate and suspenseful series of events within The Square. Like a chain of falling dominoes after midnight, each piece is guaranteed to lead to the next even if you may not know exactly where that next piece lies. Threads cross over each other from three different directions, and while it occasionally gets confusing Edgerton manages to pull them all together by the end. I will admit to losing track more than once of which greasy low-life was in cahoots with who, but I was back on track in time to watch the bodies to hit the floor. I blame my racist upbringing that causes me to see all sketchy and unshaven Australian males as indistinguishable from each other.
The town itself suffers no such identity crisis with several distinct and effective locations including the quiet suburbia, the lake that separates Ray and Carla’s homes, and the often muddy construction site that also provides the title’s foundation. Edgerton takes full advantage of atmosphere to present compelling quiet moments at home or in the back seat of a car as well as fast and lean entanglements that usually end in bloodied winners and losers.
The acting is fine with the two standouts being Roberts and Joel Edgerton (co-writer/director’s brother) as Billy the arsonist. Roberts’ portrayal of Ray as a sympathetic boob turns what could have been a thankless idiot into a character we almost want to succeed. He’s no angel, but he seems to be a fairly likable guy with incredibly poor judgement skills. As each new obstacle appears before him though, Ray’s reaction steps up another notch in severity and soon he’s lunging at folks with pick-axes and ramming them off the road. The resulting car spiralling wildly out of control is as apt a visual metaphor for Ray’s predicament as any other. Billy starts the film a bit further over the morality ledge than Ray, but he’s still someone simply trying to better his life in any way that doesn’t involve hurting others. He also fails miserably.
The Square verges on Coen Brothers’ territory with it’s multiple characters, plot lines, twists, and overall message that greed guarantees disaster, death, and bloodshed. It’s not nearly as sharp as the best the Coen’s have to offer (Fargo, No Country For Old Men) but it’s a more enjoyable film than their lesser morality plays like Burn After Reading. Considering this is Edgerton’s feature debut, that’s a strong and promising place to start.
The Square is available in a packed 2 disc Australian DVD, but as of now there is no US release scheduled. Check out the trailer below.