Back in early October, the British book trade celebrated a phenomenon known as Super Thursday, their busiest release day of the year, which sees all the big stocking-filler titles – everything from celebrity memoirs to blockbuster novels and sports annuals – hit shops in the lead-up to Christmas. Well, Australian cinema had its own super day (of sorts) this past week, with four excellent titles released for consumption in the comfort of your own home – Felony, Mystery Road, All This Mayhem and The Last Impresario.
Australian actor Joel Edgerton might ply most of his trade in Hollywood these days, but he’s one of a number who regularly return home to make films. His latest is Felony, a dazzling moral maze of a film, in which Edgerton’s character, Malcolm Toohey – a celebrated detective in Sydney’s vice squad – spends the night drinking with colleagues after a successful drugs raid (and his own escape from death).
Driving home after one too many, Toohey accidentally hits a young cyclist on a deserted road and, fearing the repercussions, tells paramedics and fellow police officers that he found the boy already lying on the road. The film pivots on this lie, tracing its implications on Toohey, his family and his colleagues, as it draws senior detective Carl Summer (Tom Wilkinson) and newcomer Jim Malic (Jai Courtney) into a tense, slow-burning three-way stand-off in which truth, integrity and morality are all brought into question.
A tense psychological thriller, Felony is the latest feature from the Blue-Tongue Films collective whose impressive feature roster includes The Rover (David Michôd, 2014), Wish You Were Here (Kieran Darcy-Smith, 2012), Animal Kingdom (Michôd, 2010) and The Square (Nash Edgerton, 2008). As well as writing the screenplay – his first solo effort after making story contributions to The Square and The Rover – Joel Edgerton puts in another hefty performance, with solid turns from Wilkinson and Courtney, as well as Melissa George (as Toohey’s wife), all marshalled via the assured direction of Matthew Saville (Noise, Cloudstreet, The Slap).
Felony makes its UK debut on advanced digital and VOD (iTunes, Virgin, Sky and most major platforms) ahead of a DVD release early next year via Solo Media.
If Felony‘s Detective Malcolm Toohey is the keeper of a dark secret, then his Aboriginal counterpart Jay Swan (Aaron Pederson) – the lead character in Ivan Sen’s stunning, enthralling neo-noir Mystery Road – is an officer very much on the outer. Probing similar questions of truth and integrity in the murky world of policing, but swapping the claustrophobia of suburban Sydney for the vast plains and rocky outcrops of rural Queensland, Mystery Road wowed critics and audiences alike during last year’s BFI London Film Festival, prompting a limited theatrical release earlier this year.
Back working in his hometown in outback Queensland after a spell in the city, Detective Jay Swan’s return coincides with the mysterious murder of an Aboriginal teenager. In order to solve the crime, he must struggle against the insular, uncooperative community of which he was once part, as well as obstructionist colleagues who have their own secrets to hide.
Mystery Road is a fantastic slow-burning, noirish rural thriller, with an excellent ensemble cast that includes Hugo Weaving, Jack Thompson, Ryan Kwanten and Bruce Spence. Here’s a sample of my extended review of the film back in August:
From the grim discovery of a murdered Aboriginal girl at the start, right up to its tour de force finale, Mystery Road boasts an excellent script and solid performances from a dazzling array of Australian screen talent. This slow-burning but highly-charged neo-western might wear its potent racial politics firmly on its sleeve, but Ivan Sen manages to carry it off in a surprisingly subtle, casual and naturalistic manner. Many films struggle to maintain their political potency when transplanted out of their specific cultural contexts, but Sen has managed – consciously or otherwise – to craft a film that provides various audiences with different entry points into the complex, deeply contested history of post-settlement Australia.
Mystery Road is now available for home viewing on DVD, Blu-Ray, VOD and digital download via Axiom Films.
ALL THIS MAYHEM
Although both previously viewable theatrically and digitally, two excellent documentaries have also come to DVD this past week. All This Mayhem is an entertaining but enthralling doc from the makers of Senna and Exit Through The Gift Shop, which traces the meteoric rise and tragic fall of legendary Australian skateboarding brothers Tas and Ben Pappas. Emerging from the mean streets of Melbourne, the duo left a massive mark on the North American vert skating circuit in the late 1990s, sitting amongst a select few to knock skateboarding legend Tony Hawk off the top of the world rankings. In the midst of what some see as a halcyon period for the sport, the Pappas brothers bucked against the encroaching commercialism (and X-Gamesification) with gritty determination, brash attitudes and a no-nonsense skating style.
Life at the top burned fast and bright, however, and the sheer scale of the brothers’ stunning downfall gives what would be an otherwise conventional film its stark, shocking emotional heft. Wholly engrossing, this moving tale of brotherhood, fame and misfortune transcends its subject matter to become much more than just another film about skateboarding.
It’s also worth mentioning that this DVD release comes at the end of an impressive roadshow-style theatrical throughout the British summer, where Tas Pappas and the filmmakers worked tirelessly to provide intros and Q&As for as many screenings as possible – an admirable effort which, thankfully, paid dividends.
All This Mayhem is available now on DVD and major digital/VOD platforms via Koch Media.
THE LAST IMPRESARIO
From the vert ramp to the stage, the life and times of London entertainment impresario Michael White – ‘the most famous man you’ve never heard of’ – are brought to the screen in The Last Impresario, the feature documentary debut of Gracie Otto (daughter of Barry, sister of Miranda). As a producer, White shook up London’s cultural scene in the 1970s with West End blockbusters such as The Rocky Horror Show and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. An infamous raconteur and playboy, White went on to produce over 200 shows and films including The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Sharman, 1975) and Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Gilliam/Jones, 1975).
The film’s Australian links go much deeper than Otto’s role, however, with faces of the Australian stage and screen – including Barry Humphries, Naomi Watts, and Rocky Horror director Jim Sharman – appearing to share stories and anecdotes about White’s life and career. There are also plenty of nods to the two-way exchange of ideas and personnel between Australia and that cultural metropole of the Anglophone world, London, where White has plied his impressive trade over the last five decades or so.