3 stars
“Prison is for pricks who don't have their punishment in here,” growls Detective Carl Summer, urgently tapping at his skull. He's trying to persuade his colleague Malcolm to do the right thing. At least, right by Carl.
For a young boy is in a critical condition following a car accident and while Malcolm is hailed for getting the kid to care, he also knows who knocked the boy of his bike in the first place. “I'll get you through this,” says Carl, “here's what happened.”

This edgy thriller from writer/star Joel Edgerton (Wish You Were Here) is dressed up in NSW Police politics, fertile ground for a contemporary morality tale set as it is in the country's most morally fluid state. As Officer Malcolm, Edgerton is a garden variety family man who, any other day, is the picture of police health. Earlier that week he had taken one for the team and during the ensuing celebration, groundwork for this nightmare was established. It is in this world that Felony works best; there's a tangible reality to the story which, with Matthew Saville's polished direction, enables his film to hit its markers. Saville is best known for quality TV like Cloudstreet and The Slap, but also 2007's much under-rated Noise.

Bobbing in the middle of the confusion is young officer Jim Melic (Jai Courtney – Divergent) whose prickly questions begin to shift the moral compass. While Malcolm needs little encouragement, Carl is on a different trajectory. “We've got to keep this tight,” he threatens. “We're all in it, the whole force mate.” There's a my-way-or-no-way fervour to Summer that is wonderfully caught by Tom Wilkinson's (Belle) twitchy, alcoholic, often menacing performance. He is a tremendous presence that lifts the film in its weaker moments, and ignites the strongest. Lost in a murky corner where police meet public and right meets wrong, he's an exhilarating presence.

Yet for all the high points, and there are many, Edgerton's script is often left groping in its own darkness - there's a distracting looseness to many scenes that are too neatly assembled in the edit. It lends the production a strong and unwelcome whiff of television. However there's also a distant echo of Jindabyne in its theme and structure which opens out on a cinematic scale as Edgerton seeks to strike a (more obvious) critique of the consequences of moral fluidity. On balance, Felony turns in a rugged slice of entertainment which, if not as provocative as you'd like, remains thoughtful.


Previewed at Roadshow Theaterette, Sydney on 19 August 2014

Joel Edgerton
Tom Wilkinson
Jai Courteny
Melissa George

Joel Edgerton

Matthew Saville



105 minutes

August 28, 2014
Felony (2013) on IMDb