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Swerve (8/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 87 minutes

Not for children

Lots of movies proclaim that they are “noirs” when they aren’t even close. Noirs all have a few things in common and just to say your film is a noir when some of the basics are missing doesn’t do the trick. This Australian noir is the real thing. When Colin (David Lyons) comes across a fatal automobile accident in the desert he becomes involved with the driver, Jina (Emma Booth), and her husband, Frank (Jason Clarke), and some drug money from the dead driver of the other car.

Written and directed by Craig Lahiff, this is a brilliant noir that would have felt right at home in ‘40s Hollywood. As with most noirs, this is greatly aided by atmospheric cinematography of the sun-burned Flinders Ranges in South Australia by David Foreman and subtle music by Paul Grabowsky that keep the mystery tense.

This follows all of the rules of noir, adding a trouble-shooter Charlie (Travis McMahan) who is working in the background killing people trying to find the money.

As usual in a noir, good guy protagonist, Colin, is sucked into something he never saw coming by a gorgeous woman and, although suspicious, he just doesn’t know whether to trust her or not. Booth is gorgeous and a gives a terrific performance as the inscrutable femme fatale. Jason Clarke gives his usual top flight performance, equaling what he did in Lawless (2012) and The Great Gatsby (2013). This guy is as good as it gets.

Lahiff does have a couple of scenes that make one realize this is a movie and not real life. In one, Charlie haplessly drives into the side of a bus in a poorly staged accident that should have been much better staged in this day and age. In another, Frank jumps onto the top of a speeding train that is clearly moving too fast for him to do what he does without serious injury.

But those are minor annoyances. This is a surprise sleeper.

December 3, 2013