Director: Julius Avery
Duration: 108 min (Australia)
I’m sure we’re all a little weary from prison-set dramas. It’s the tried and tested, but you can see why there is frequent return to the format. It’s the perfect frame for conflict; a confined chamber where an innate morality and group norms are set incongruently against not only other groups inside the dynamic, but that of the judicial system too.
It is with an enervated gathering of the self that one sits down to watch Son of a Gun. Just how derivative is this going to be? Are we going to be left slumped in the chair, bludgeoned with contempt for the familiar?
The tale is one of a prison bust, where experienced Brendan (Ewan McGregor) enlists the assistance of fellow, wet-behind-the-ears jailbird, JR (Brenton Thwaites). Once out, they must navigate the murky pitfalls and betrayals of life back in the criminal fraternity; as grand scheme and ambition clouds perception and judgement. Both the two leads exude a delicate chemistry that see-saws with the necessary level of trust countered by streetwise hesitancy. They are ably supported by the ubiquitous Alicia Vikander (Ex-Machina, Testament of Youth), who continues to impress, bringing a charm to the doughty and resourceful character of Tasha.
There is an autumnal hue to the cinematography that runs contrary to the drained, gritty approach in Audiard’s A Prophet (2009). Son of a Gun has more in common in appearance instead with the recent Angelina Jolie effort Unbroken (2014). The material echoes the same paths as those trodden in the sub-par Edward Norton, De Niro and Brando team-up The Score (2001) or a kindred spirit to the relationship in A Bronx Tale (1993), where a scruffy, impressionable and primarily decent young upstart is coaxed and seduced into the underworld of perpetual recalcitrance.
Why should we care as to what happens to these transgressive degenerates? What does it say about us that we sign up and climb on board (albeit vicariously) with the violation of society’s mores? Somehow, filmmaker Julius Avery manages to banish any weighty concerns for 108 minutes by throwing us into the shady wiles of a criminal’s survival instincts.
Son of a Gun is in cinemas on 30th January 2015.
Here is the trailer: