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THE BET
The Bet
In the business end of town, a hot-shot stock-broker makes a bet with his wealthy mate; the consequences of which could be his undoing. score

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Cast
Matthew Newton, Aden Young, Sibylla Budd, Roy Billing

Director
Mark Lee

Screenwriter
Caroline Gerard

Country
Australia

Rating / Running Time
M / 92 minutes

Australian Release
September 2007

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(c) moviereview 2006-2007
ABN 72 775 390 361

If West is a depiction of reality for poor kids in western Sydney, then The Bet is its demographic opposite: a film about rich kids playing in the city’s east. In many regards these are book-ends that share the same thematic ideas wrapped around the same, slick production values. It’s faint praise since The Bet, like West, has undergone a fatal credibility by-pass. We know these things go on, but it’s hard to believe they go on quite like this.

At the top end of town, a gung-ho stock-broker takes on a bet with his polo-playing mate (Aiden Young). Will (Matthew Newton) has ninety days to make some serious cash and outshine his smug, blue-blood opponent. Fate presents some tantalising options that the youngster greedily accepts. It is, of course, to be his undoing. The Bet doesn’t live in a complete vacuum and engages passing commentary about its host (“the problem with this city is that it’s too good looking”) and past inhabitants in a reverential nudge at one of the market’s more infamous losers. Like West, it questions how we draw lines of acceptable behaviour, and how willing we are to cross them. In Will’s case, that involves loosing his moral compass and his girlfriend while driving his father to bankruptcy.

Director Mark Lee tries to draw us toward some conclusions about social corruption but there’s no escaping the awe in which he holds the characters and their distasteful world. His intention to manage both notions is doomed for as long as he tries to keep a foot in both camps, which is most of the film. Uneven pacing, Newton’s inflated nice-guy persona and Young’s paper thin character doesn’t help Lee’s task. When the final reel springs a surprise only Will didn’t see coming, it’s disappointing to realise how little there is to hold our attention beyond the first twenty minutes.

// COLIN FRASER