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MIFF 2011 Film Review: SWERVE

12 Aug


By Melanie Ashe

Swerve is the new feature film by Australian director Craig Lahiff; a thrilling genre romp set in the outback of South Australia.  A drug bust gone wrong, a suitcase filled with money, a relentless villain who will stop at nothing to get the cash, a seemingly vulnerable femme fatale type character – these are all-too-familiar narrative devices, but the idea here is that we have not seen them before through the off-kilter and sun-blasted lens of Australiana.

The notion of the Australian bush as oppressive and tyrannical has been explored in films like Wake in Fright or Wolf Creek, and the swollen and blistered hills surrounding the Flinders Rangers do make for a tremendous and isolating backdrop for the film.  However, the characters themselves do not need to be understood in relationship with the landscape, and seem incongruous with it at times, like the story was simply supplanted into the outback.  Despite commendable acting from protagonist Colin (played by David Lyons), the policeman and his wife (Jason Clarke, Emma Booth), the narrative diverges at too many twists and turns and becomes a bit too ridiculous.

That said, the film definitely makes for fun watching.  What begins as a frivolous and cliché opening sequence does follow through with some genuinely well-crafed moments of Hitchcock-style suspense and frightening violence, not to mention a very impressive stunt car-crash sequence that harks back to the glory of something like Mad Max, shot with one take and multiple cameras.  The film has an undercurrent of dark-humour that accentuates the sometimes backward or absurd nature of the Australian country town served as a constant reminder at what the film was for – to have a bit of fun.