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The Hard Word
cast: Guy Pearce, Rachel Griffiths, Robert Taylor, Joel Edgerton, and Damien Richardson

writer and director: Scott Roberts

102 minutes (18) 2002
High Fliers VHS rental
Also available to rent on DVD

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Debbie Moon
Bank-robbing Aussie brothers Dale (the smart one), Mal (the naive one), and Shane (the psycho) are doing time - but thanks to an arrangement with their lawyer Frank and the cops, they're sneaked out of prison now and then to do a job. As their release date approaches, Dale realises that they're entirely in Frank's power: he has their share of the cash, incriminating evidence on them - and he's taken up with Dale's wife Carol. Frank wants them to do one last big job, robbing bookies at the Melbourne Cup - but when the double-crossing gets out of hand, the situation gets bloody, and the brothers will be lucky to get out alive...
   The wave of crime movies that swept Britain a few years ago seems to have reached Australia; and so far, down under is doing very well out of it. The Hard Word is a fine example of Aussie cinema: hard-hitting, hip, strong on character, and decidedly quirky. Writer-director Roberts stages the action inventively and economically, and finds some interesting locations, and keeps the emphasis on the characters, who are presented with warmth and a streak of black humour.
   Guy Pearce, as Dale, gets the lion's share of the drama, locked in a battle with Robert Taylor's slimy Frank for the cash and the affections of Rachel Griffiths' tarty, fickle, manipulative Carol - who, in Griffiths' capable hands, is perhaps the most complex character in the film. Damien Richardson's innocent Mal and Joel Edgerton's fussy, obsessive Shane are less rounded characters, but contribute ably to the boisterous humour.
   For a film about three brothers, The Hard Word spends very little time exploring their relationship, preferring to pit them individually against other characters. The film also falters towards the end, with an unlikely coda tying up loose ends so that we can finish on a wave of exuberant coolness, rather than plausibility. But overall, The Hard Word is an energetic, enjoyable movie with great performances than outperforms most Brit-crime movies with ease. Recommended.
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