After almost being killed during the film’s opening bust, Detective Mal Toohey (Joel Edgerton) has a few too many celebratory drinks down the pub with his Drugs Squad buddies before driving home.

Tired and a little drunk, he clips a young cyclist with his wing mirror, knocking the boy off his bike and into a coma. Panicking, Mal calls an ambulance and impulsively lies, telling the dispatcher and paramedics that he found the boy unconscious on the road while the veteran investigating officer, and friend of Mal’s, Carl Summer (Tom Wilkinson doing a decent Aussie accent) covers Mal’s tracks, spoon-feeding him a cover story and fudging the evidence to put him in the clear. But Carl’s zealous rookie partner Jim Melic (Jai Courtney, much better here than in the risible Live Free Or Die Hard) smells a rat and keeps digging at Mal and Carl’s story while Mal’s own feelings of guilt and sense of justice threaten to eat him alive…

Downbeat and low-key, TV director Matthew Saville’s feature (written by Edgerton) is an intense, naturalistic slice of noir as Edgerton’s fundamentally decent cop becomes enmeshed in the gears of his own Big Clock, the rippling effect of one bad choice threatens to consume not only him but his wife (Melissa George) and of course Carl and Jim. Driven by an atmospheric score by Saville’s wife Bryony Marks, Saville’s pace is measured, allowing the tension to creep insidiously, cinematographer Mark Wareham’s camera an intimate observer, bearing witness to the clash of loyalty, love, professional integrity and personal morality as each character is forced to struggle with their conscience and make compromises that will haunt them with much of the real drama playing out in the silent spaces of scenes and across Edgerton’s taciturn, granite face.

Appropriately anxious and tortured, Edgerton is solid as Mal while, as the least interesting character, the straight-arrow rookie Jim, Courtney is very good, suggesting an arrogant sense of conviction without ever being sanctimonious, his moral surety undercut by his need to be right and George (who worked with Saville on The Slap) is steely, her reaction to Edgerton’s confession one of pragmatic disgust. The film’s standout performance though is Wilkinson’s amiably bitter old school cop whose personal and professional frustrations lead to his unravelling. In a sense, Saville and Edgerton have given us in Mal, Carl and Jim not three cops but one at various stages in gestation; Jim is the cop Mal was, Carl is where he’s headed, a fact underlined by the film’s quietly devastating final scene.

Tense, measured and smart, Felony eats away at you like a guilty conscience.

 

 

DVD Review: Felony
A subtle, stylish psychological thriller
4.0Overall Score
Reader Rating: (0 Votes)

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  • Tsmitt

    It’s not the directors first feature. He made ‘Noise’ in 2007.