Movie review: ‘The Square’ spins a clever neo-noir tale with an Aussie twist
After watching their taut, insidious and very clever neo-noir, “The Square,” you might be inclined to think of the filmmaking siblings Nash and Joel Edgerton as the Down Under Coen brothers.
Shades of the Coens’ “Blood Simple” nihilism – along with dark doses of James M. Cain’s hardboiled ethic – run through their perverse little tale of a regular guy undone by adultery, blackmail, arson, murder and best-laid plans gone terribly, disastrously wrong.
Set in a sunny Sydney suburb, the Edgertons’ story (Nash directed; Joel co-wrote, produced and co-stars) is a darkly funny Aussie noir complete with old-school conventions: hapless, regular-guy dupe; femme fatale; deadly thugs; spiraling bad fortune. But the brothers spin those time-worn conventions with such cheeky bravado that their film seems startlingly fresh.
As per formula, the thing starts with two unhappily married lovers locked in an adulterous affair. Raymond (Dave Roberts) is a 40-something construction supervisor trapped in an aggressively loveless marriage. His much younger hairdresser neighbor Carla (Claire van der Boom) is wed to mullet-headed, small-time crook Smithy (Anthony Hayes), who treats her like a scullery maid.
Raymond and Carla, during their no-tell motel trysts, dream of running away together. And the seemingly perfect opportunity arises when Carla finds a hidden attic stash of loot, apparently the proceeds from one of Smithy’s larger criminal enterprises. Applying her most vampish wiles, Carla urges a reluctant Raymond to seize the day – and the illicit cash – and make their move.
But Raymond hesitates, and in that slight hesitation delicious, dastardly complications begin to pile up, and up, and up.
Among those bleakly comic and cringe-inducing complications is an encounter with a thuggish arsonist (played with silky, psychotic menace by Joel Edgerton), a florid array of blue-collar criminal henchmen, a nasty blackmail scheme, an escalating body count and an unfortunate incident involving Carla’s dog, Raymond’s frisky pup and a river.
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