Debut writer and director make a great splash

The Square

on April 06, 2010 by Pam Grady

Australian actor Joel Edgerton played Owen Lars in the last two Star Wars movies and more recently Stanley Kowalski on stage to Cate Blanchett's Blanche du Bois in A Streetcar Named Desire. Here he turns screenwriter, while his stuntman and award-winning shorts filmmaker brother Nash turns first-time feature director in The Square. An adulterous couple's attempt to make a big score in hopes of making a life together goes horribly awry in this intricate, suspenseful neo-noir, nominated for seven Australian Film Institute Awards (Australia's Oscar), including Best Original Screenplay, Best Direction and Best Film. With the exception of Joel Edgerton in a supporting role, this is a movie with no star power, but American distributor Apparition is betting that favorable reviews and positive word of mouth among genre fans will be enough to translate to box office success.

When hairdresser Carla (Claire van der Boom) discovers that her criminal husband, Greg (Anthony Hayes), is hiding a bag full of cash in an attic crawlspace, she sees the money as the means of escape from her marriage into a new start with her older, construction supervisor lover, Ray (David Roberts). The catch is that the couple cannot simply steal the loot or Greg will surely come after them. Their solution is to hide the theft by torching the house, hiring arsonist Billy (Joel Edgerton) to do the deed. They never stop to consider the myriad ways the plan could go awry and it does, leaving in its wake a suspicious Greg, a mysterious blackmailer and one irate arsonist.

It is clear the Joel Edgerton, who conceived the story and fleshed out the screenplay with Matthew Dabner, knows his noir, its plotting lovers reminiscent of the classic pairs in Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice, as well as the more contemporary couples in Body Heat and Blood Simple. And while there are no auditory hallucinations, there are also shades of Edgar Allen Poe's A Tell-Tale Heart in the way Ray's guilty conscience manifests itself. But if the outlines are familiar, Edgerton and Dabner, give their yarn—set in the heat and light of the sun-drenched Christmas holidays—a fresh spin. Carla is not the typical noir femme fatale and Ray is not her dupe. They are regular people who make one decision that sends their lives and their behavior spinning out of control.

For Nash Edgerton, The Square marks an impressive debut as he handles both the actors and the demanding requirements of successful suspense with ease. His decision to cast Roberts, a relative unknown even in Australia, in the lead proves to be a wise one. The actor is terrific as an everyman tripping all over the web of his own making and he is well matched by van der Boom. This is a movie without a lot of backstory—how and why this somewhat disparate couple got together is never explained; they simply are—so the chemistry between the lovers is key. This Square has got that and more. It is a crackerjack thriller and a sensational calling card for the brothers Edgerton.

Distributor: Apparition
Cast: David Roberts, Claire van der Boom, Joel Edgerton, Anthony Hayes, Bill Hunter
Director: Nash Edgerton
Screenwriter: Joel Edgerton, Matthew Dabner
Producer: Louise Smith
Genre: Thriller/Drama
Rating: R or violence and language.
Running time: 105 min.
Release date: April 9 NY/LA

Tags: Joel Edgerton, Nash Edgerton, The Square, Claire van der Boom, Anthony Hayes, Bill Hunter, David Roberts, thriller, suspense, noir, Spider

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