Freelance writer. Melbourne based cinephile. Fond of food.
Published August 22nd 2014
Aussie crime is on the rise
Director: Matthew Saville (Noise, Cloudstreet, Please Like Me) Cast: Joel Edgerton, Tom Wilkinson, Jai Courtney, Melissa George, Sarah Roberts
Familiar themes of police corruption, compromised loyalties and how individuals deal with guilt are handled with impressive subtlety in Felony, Matthew Saville's follow up to Noise.
Joel Edgerton as Detective Malcolm Toohey
With Noise, Saville effectively evoked an unsettling sense of dread, and he does the same with Felony, although this time with a meatier script, written by the film's star, Joel Edgerton. Edgerton clearly has a fascination for the ethical dilemmas of committing a crime. He co-wrote The Square and starred in Wish You Were Here, previous parables concerning a basically decent guy whose conscience is plagued by a transgression he is concealing.
From the outset his Detective Malcolm Toohey is depicted as a brave and respected member of the police force. Driving home after having had one drink too many, Toohey is stopped for a random breath test. A quick flash of his badge is all it takes to move on through, despite his evident inebriation. Moments later he hits a young cyclist, and from thereon the dilemma of whether to confess to his actions eats away at him.
Detectives Jim Melic (Jai Courtney) and Malcolm Toohey at the scene of the crime
Clouding his judgement is a more senior detective, Carl Summer (Tom Wilkinson), whose staunch opinion is that bad publicity to the force should be avoided at all costs. He actively encourages Toohey to uphold the deceit that he arrived on the scene after the accident..
If Summer is the devil on Toohey's shoulder, then the young and idealistic detective Jim Melic (Jai Courtney) represents the angel on the other. He suspects Toohey's guilt and becomes preoccupied with discovering and exposing the truth. To complicate matters, there's Toohey's wife Julie (Melissa George), whose principal concern is the protection of her family. Meanwhile the mother of the comatose cyclist, Ankhila (Elizabeth Roberts) is a reminder to all of the ramifications of Toohey's actions.
Tom Wilkinson as Detective Carl Summer
There's a pleasing ambiguity to the levels of abuse of power within the story, and Saville shows great skill in slowly ramping up the tension. He's aided by his cast of internationally renown (but mostly local) actors who give wonderfully controlled performances. Wilkinson's Aussie accent is a bit dodgy at times, but I liked to think of him as a Brit who's been living in Australia for a while but still has traces of his original accent.
This is a highly polished production, but despite its merits the premise is possibly just a bit too simple to completely satisfy.