Take a Drink: whenever a character does
Take a Drink: whenever a character stares down another character
Take a Drink: for each Australian accent
Do a Shot: during each plot twist
By: Matt Conway (Three Beers) –
For all the buzz that film festivals bring to certain films, they seem to be a burial ground of sorts for others. Every year from Sundance to the Toronto International Film Festival there are a good five to six movies that everyone is talking about, and most of these films end up being either big critical or financial successes. However, people do not realize how many films play at these film festivals, with dozens of films seemingly getting buried by the sheer amount of movies at the festival, with some of these films failing to even reach cinemas.
One of the big examples of this is Felony. Premiering at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, the crime thriller despite featuring a well-known cast is essentially being dumped out on a very limited/VOD run. While the film is far from perfect, Felony is an engaging crime thriller that deserves to be seen by a wider audience.
Felony follows renowned detective Malcolm, who a day after taking a bullet is involved in a car accident putting a young boy in a coma. While some detectives are trying their best to clear his name, young detective Jim searches from the truth.
The true highlight of Felony is its cast, which is lead by a trio of very different actors. Leading the talented group is Joel Edgerton, who is honestly one of the more interesting upcoming actors to watch. He does a lot of different films, and will even be the Egyptian Ramses in Exodus: Gods and Kings. Here, Edgerton plays a far more general character in Malcolm, who is just trying to make do the right thing after putting a young boy in a coma. Edgerton captures this emotionally divided character in a quiet, yet effective way, and lets the audience understand the character and his choices.
One of the most respected and underrated actors working today is Tom Wilkinson, who delivers another great performance. Wilkinson does a great job of being charismatic and fun-loving in one moment, yet completely menacing the next moment. He is a great talent who adds a lot of dramatic weight to every scene he is in. Then there is Jai Courtney, who delivers by far the best performance he has given in a film. Courtney has always shown great presence in small roles and gets to shine here in his dramatic role, as it’s easy to buy his performance in the role as the detective Jim.
Felony’ s strongest assets are its characters. Written by Joel Edgerton himself, Edgerton shows a great deal of promise with his first major scripting effort. The trio of characters here are all well-realized, and are morally complex characters who are looking out for the best interests of themselves and their loved ones. Each and every choice these characters make makes complete sense for who they are and what they are trying to achieve, which while that sounds simple, does not always happen.
With great moral complexity in the characters comes a lot of interesting thematic material. Felony, unlike a lot of Hollywood thrillers, really challenges its audience to think about the characters and the actions they make, while asking a lot of interesting questions involving forgiving someone even when they had no intention of doing harm and the guilt people live through after doing a bad deed.
While Edgerton’s script nails a lot of the thematic material that a lot of Hollywood thrillers ignore, the central story surrounding these events is somewhat weak. The initial set-up is something that has been done before, most recently in the mediocre thriller Reasonable Doubt. After getting to know the characters a bit, a lot of the story becomes predictable, which makes some of it feel like it’s just going through the generic elements of a routine crime thriller.
Felony has a lot of tense moments, but also quite a bit of dry moments as well. The beginning in particular feels a bit long-winded, as the film takes too long setting up the initial incident and getting into the main thrust of the story. The crime incident itself is a good twenty minutes of screen time, and that’s time that could have been spent more on either the characters or just some of the lesser aspects of the story.
Felony’s biggest misstep comes with its third act, which fails to truly stick the landing. While a majority of the film up to this point is in the realm of realism, the third act takes a lot of liberties, with some plot convinces that just felt like a stretch of reality. Too many odd coincidental type of elements happen, making the final result in a lot of ways seemed forced. The ending here just could have used a bit more thought and inspiration.
While the film drops the ball in the story department and its final act, Felony is largely an engaging, morally complex thriller that features some good performances and asks a lot of interesting questions. Check it out now on VOD and On Demand.