Apparently there’s a new batch of talented young filmmakers hailing from down under, and they’re producing under the banner Blue Tongue Films. Currently playing in theaters is the Sundance award winner Animal Kingdom, but since that Australian crime epic is only playing at the high-end Arclight, and I can’t afford internet/cable/phone right now, I visited the corner redbox and rented The Square instead. Surprisingly, they carry it even though it has no major stars, is super low-budget, and technically a foreign film. One of the stars of Kingdom, Joel Edgerton, is the co-writer/co-star of The Square, and his brother, Nash Edgerton, is the director. So now that we all know where they’re from and that they’re all best buds…how was the movie?
I’d say good, not great. There’s some real promise here, but nothing as classic as the film The Square has most been compared to, the Coen brothers debut thriller Blood Simple. The Square is about two adulterers, Ray (David Roberts), a bored construction manager, and Carla (Claire Van Der Boom), a much younger hair dresser. Carla hatches a plan to run away together with a bag of her husband’s (Anthony Hayes) money in tow and Ray goes along with it, despite early objections. Her husband is one mean dude. It is clear he is some kind of criminal, but the particulars of the money are never explicitly explained. I don’t mind this, except since Carla’s motivations for stealing the money are never fully explored, it comes off feeling more like a contrivance than a natural progression. In fact, Carla and Ray’s relationship is never really explained. We are never privy to how they met or what they see in each other, we just know they’re in love, they want to get away, and there’s some money that they can take with them, so long as they do a few bad things.
Of course with any film noir, everything that can go wrong does, and although some of these obstacles are a tad too manufactured, most of them are deliciously accidental. I won’t spoil anything here, but one of the Edgerton’s obvious talents is hitting you with one out of left-field. Unfortunately, most of the film feels like it only exists for the sake of these surprises. There are attempts here and there at symbolism, the titular square and the adulterer’s dogs, but they don’t really resonate and therefore the film has very little substance.
There is, however, some terrific acting on display, especially from David Roberts, instilling some depth to characters that are given very little. But the editing could be a little tighter and the run-time a smidge leaner, as well.
The picture is more of an exercise in noir, like a test run, if you will, than a complete movie. It is less engaging than one would hope. In spite of these complaints, the execution is still solid and I’m eagerly anticipating what Blue Tongue can cook up next.