Movie Review: ‘Felony’


Director: Matthew Saville

Cast: Joel Edgerton, Tom Wilkinson, Jai Courtney, Melissa George

Plot: An Australian police officer, after celebrating with colleagues following taking a bullet to the protective vest, drives home drunk and clips a young child on a bike. With the boy in critical condition an older cop wants to gloss things over for the hero police officer, while a younger detective wants to expose him.

Review: Although this may sound, on paper, like your standard cop drama/thriller fare it’s a much more subtle take on the genre than one might expect going in. Joel Edgerton, who wrote the script and plays the officer at the centre of the conundrum, has primarily crafted a character study rather than a procedural piece or even a by the numbers thriller. Edgerton’s Mal struggles not only with his actions but his failure to take responsibility at the time, leading him down a path of paranoia and regret. Also involved is Tom Wilkinson’s Carl, a senior detective whose bullish tactics and ‘creative’ policing casts him as the most disagreeable character but he’s still a fleshed out character who has their own motivations. Rounding out the cast is Jai Courtney as Jim, the youngest detective involved who wants to play by the rules and seeks to find the truth, even his own motivations are misguided.

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Before long the movie becomes less about the politics of the situation or distinguishing between right and wrong, but challenging the viewer with how they would respond in the same situation. Mal has done the wrong thing and his initial instinct is to try to hide from that, and it’s hard not to imagine anyone for whom such a conundrum wouldn’t resonate with. The different paths Mal can take come from unexpected sources, most significantly his wife’s belief that he should keep quiet in spite of his guilt.

Being a movie with such heavy connotations it feels very much like a slow burn, but every scene gives us a new slice of information or a new insight into a character’s psyche that creates a larger canvas of mixed greys. As we reach the closing of the film some of the twists that impact on the characters begin to feel a bit overly-dramatic, and for a moment the sudden curve balls make it look like no-one is walking away from the experience in one piece. Not all of these heavily symbolic ‘big’ scenes fit in smoothly with the subtle character work that the rest of the film builds on.

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The greatest strength of the movie is the performances. Edgerton has written a great trio of roles at the centre of this drama and the three performers spanning a range of ages and experiences do justice to the material. The uncertain Courtney is a great counterweight to the devilish Wilkinson, with Edgerton representing the figure torn between the two. If you want a solid character drama you could do much worse.

Score: SEVEN out of TEN