Take a Drink: each time a character snaps
Do a Shot: for each double cross
Take a Drink: during each use of “Enter One” by Sol Seppy
Take a Drink: for each heist cliche
By: Matt Conway (Two Beers) –
For all of his talents, Ewan McGregor has been an actor who has always flown under the radar. His career debuted so terrifically with Trainspotting, which is still his best work to date. Hurting his career a great deal, however, was being in the Star Wars prequels, which is the kind of role actors could just not deny. McGregor gave perhaps the best performance of anyone in those films, but their overall quality has tainted his name quite a bit. Whether a movie is good or bad, McGregor is an actor who always puts his best foot forward, a quality I dearly respect.
People may not have realized, but McGregor has had been on fire as of late. Sure, he has a few stinkers here and there (it’s looking like Mortdecai will be one of those), but he has starred in quite a few great films. From a smart coming of age flick like Beginners to the super underrated and emotional uplifting The Impossible, McGregor has done a good mixture of different roles in quality films. McGregor’s latest, Son of a Gun, is a stylish and entertaining heist flick.
Son of a Gun follows JR, a lost young adult who has just arrived in prison. In there, he meets infamous criminal Brandon Lynch. After they bust out of a prison, JR must assist Lynch on completing one last job, a gold heist that will divide everybody.
From a technical standpoint, the film looks quite good. First time feature film director Julius Avery implements a great deal of style in his film, which helps in adding more flair to the film visually. Cinematographer Nigel Bluck does a great job as well, capturing the Australian countryside and city life with poise. Some of the film’s quieter moments are also aided by Bluck, whose simple visuals evoke pathos.
Like most heist films, there are numerous exciting action setpieces in Son of a Gun. It’s evident that Avery is working with more budgetary restrictions than the average thriller, but uses that as an advantage. What the action lacks in scale, it makes up in more gritty, realistic firefights. Whenever the action comes up on screen, it’s always exciting and well-executed.
The performances in the film are quite good. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the cast is Brenton Thwaites as young JR, who stands out a great deal here. He is able to evoke the cold steel personality that his character has, but convincingly pulls off some of the smaller, more emotional moments of the film. Playing his love interest is Alicia Vikander, who also does a very good job in the film as well. Thwaites and Vikander have a more understated relationship similar to other thrillers like Drive and Dead Man Down, but they both make it work with a real sense of chemistry.
As usual, Ewan McGregor stands out in his role in the film. As a wanted criminal, McGregor really gets the chance to chew the scenery a bit, with quite a few smart-ass quips and moments of anger. Still, McGregor keeps the character grounded in reality, which is crucial for making his character work. Supporting players Matt Nable and Eddie Baroo also do a solid job in their respective roles.
One of the qualities about Son of a Gun that stands above the average heist film’s are the characters, who have more to them than the average characters in a heist film. All three of the main three characters are broken people, and the film really shows these characters as people in the real world rather than just generic characters in an action film. A scene particular with McGregor near the film’s finale set to Sol Seppy’s Enter One stood out as particularly effective, showing an emptiness to the character that had not been shown before.
At the end of the day, though, the story of Son a Gun is as generic as they come. It’s your standard “one last job” storyline, which seems to be the story for almost every heist film these days. While it’s fine to use that concept as a building block, scribe Julius Avery does little to change the predictable formula. Even some late double-crosses that are supposed to add an element of surprise feel calculated and predictable.
This is especially disappointing as the film started off so strong, with a unique and dark look at prison life that really showed a lot of promise. While the film is still quite entertaining, the story quality drops off greatly, which leaves this film as a solid thriller instead of the truly great one it could have been. There are shadings there of more interesting ideas, but they are left for dead in order to follow an overall mundane storyline.
Despite a heaping of cliches and a generic storyline, Son of a Gun is an engaging and entertaining flick that is more emotionally complex than your average thriller. Certainly worth checking out via VOD or if it is playing in your local theater.