Son of a Gun Review
I have always liked gritty crime movies. It is easily one of my favorite genres. I love getting into the minds of crooks, seeing how they think, seeing how they feel, learn what got them to that moment in time when they decided to turn to a life of crime. I find it all fascinating, and the crime movies that explore their options well have always been some of the most rewarding movies to watch. I don't know our country's obsession with gangsters, and I don't think I ever will. There is something cool about them, even though the rest of society understands what they are doing is wrong.
"Son of a Gun" is a gritty, Australian crime film, which finally made to American shores this year. If I could explain this movie in just a couple of words, you could call this movie "Grand Theft Auto: Australia," with just a pinch of "Prison Break" thrown in there for good measure. This is highly-kinetic entertainment. A tough guy movie populated by several tough guys, and even a couple of tough girls. There is a realistic callousness that splatters itself across each frame. There is nothing about this movie that is supposed to be adventurous, and other than a couple of scenes, there is nothing that is remotely funny about the movie. This is a grounded crime drama, with a couple minor twists thrown in for good measure.
J.R. (Brenton Thwaites) is a 19-year-old boy who gets sent to prison for the next six months. While in the prison, he meets Brendan Lynch (Ewan McGregor) the worst criminal Australia has had in a long time. Offering J.R. protection, Lynch makes it clear that someday, a time will come when J.R. will have to help him with something. Lynch already sticks his neck out for him after J.R. almost gets harmed, and J.R. is more than willing to help. After J.R.'s time is up, he meets Sam (Jacek Koman) a business partner of Lynch's and he trains J.R. on how to break Lynch out of prison. The prison break is successful and J.R. quickly becomes a protégé of Lynch.
Can you guess what makes things complicated? Sure, Sam and Lynch begin to not see eye to eye on their business ventures, but you can guess what else happens? If you guessed a girl happens, then you would be correct. J.R. meets the lovely Tasha (Alicia Vikander), a girl who Sam has forbidden anyone of being with. That doesn't stop them though, J.R. and Tasha eventually fall for each other and after one more big score, they plan to flee Australia together.
So yes, it can be said that "Son of a Gun" is an assembly line of action movie clichés. There is not anything here that changes things for the genre. The movie will play out exactly as you will expect. But what makes "Son of a Gun" so addicting to watch is just how confident the movie is. This movie knows what it wants to do and it does it. While I like originality and unpredictability, it is hard for me not to like a movie that is told well. That knows what it is and what it is not. It is hard to not like a movie that brought to life by several good actors, all of whom do good work.
Who knew Ewan McGregor could be such a badass? McGregor has made a career playing the nice guy, and he does so with accurate precision. While he has been in movies like this before, he has always been the nice guy, the beacon of light that we follow into dark worlds. This time, he is the dark world and relishes every moment of it. When McGregor makes a decision in this movie, no matter how sinister, it is believable. Every bad thing McGregor does in this movie he makes believable. We can buy him as a villain and it all works.
I also have to say that Brenton Thwaites is quite the discovery here. He is the nice guy that we follow into this dark world, and while his personality is a list of "young criminal joins big gang" character traits that we have seen before, he does a good job with what he is given to do. Almost too good of a job, to be honest. His romance with Alicia Vikander is relatable and realistic and they have good chemistry together. Thwaites also has very good chemistry with McGregor as well. I hope both Vikander and Thwaites move onto long lasting careers.
To some, "Son of a Gun" will feel like "been there, done that" but the way in which the film is told is tough to beat.
FINAL GRADE: B