×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Felony’

The mere exchange of glances builds as much suspense as a kinetic action sequence in Matthew Saville's tense, stylish psychological thriller.

With:

Joel Edgerton, Jai Courtney, Tom Wilkinson, Melissa George, Sarah Roberts.

A traffic accident involving a young boy spins a web of lies, suspicion and cover-ups around three policemen in “Felony,” a tension-packed drama from Aussie helmer Matthew Saville. The script, written by lead actor Joel Edgerton, teems with moral conundrums, as straight-arrow righteousness, self-serving pragmatism and plain, old-fashioned guilt duke it out amid drug busts and family disintegration. Thanks to Saville’s tightly controlled direction and a superlative cast, the mere exchange of glances builds as much suspense as the kinetic action sequence that opens the pic. This stylish psychological thriller could gather momentum after its projected late-summer Australian and Stateside release.

The camera follows policeman Mal Toohey (Edgerton) with handheld immediacy as he chases an escaping suspect during a raid on a drug lab; he gets a bullet lodged in his protective vest and hero status for his trouble. Driving home late at night after partaking of a few too many toasts in his honor, he accidently clips a boy on a bike with his rear-view mirror. Panicked, he phones for an ambulance, but denies all involvement in the incident.

Meanwhile, uptight, by-the-book newbie Jim (Jai Courtney) and his superior, Carl (Tom Wilkinson), who have been “stirring the pot” on a pedophile case, arrive on the scene. Recognizing Mal, Carl takes over, sending Jim off to secure the perimeter while he privately questions Mal and sends him home, arousing Jim’s suspicions. As days pass, the boy remains in a coma and Mal’s guilt increasingly clamors for confession. Jim, his desire to solve the case further fueled by his attraction to the boy’s young mother (Sarah Roberts), voices his doubts more aggressively to Carl. And Carl, implicated in the cover-up, grows increasingly desperate in clandestine meetings with both men.

Felony” sometimes threatens to turn too neatly symmetrical: At one point, Jim is placed in a position roughly analogous to Mal’s. But the film’s strength lies in its avoidance of simple mirror-image inversions. Mal has a boy not far in age from the one who lies in a coma, but Carl had one, too, a son who was killed by a driver, and these similarities and differences bounce off each other in their layered interactions.

When Mal finally confesses his guilt to his wife (Melissa George), who has felt shut out by his silence, the truth further alienates them rather than bringing them closer together. In this relativistic universe, any choice becomes problematic and any resolution superficial, the film’s ending proposing a particularly hollow return to normalcy.

Saville sets in motion a background hum of ongoing cases, arrests, court appearances and family celebrations, while his trio of cops find themselves caught up in their own more intense, anxiety-fraught drama. Indeed, the relative routineness of the surrounding activity somewhat lessens the pic’s kinetic energy compared with, say, Derek Cianfrance’s “The Place Beyond the Pines,” where private and public conflicts collide more spectacularly. Yet in its own quiet way, “Felony” resonates.

Mark Wareham’s needle-sharp lensing, Geoff Hitchins’ crisp cutting and Bryony Mark’s driving score amp up the angst.

Film Review: 'Felony'

Reviewed at Film Society of Lincoln Center, Jan. 30, 2014. (In "Film Comment Selects"; 2013 Toronto Film Festival.) Running time: 105 MIN.

Production:

(Australia) A Gravitas Theatrical release of a Screen Australia, the Solution Entertainment Group, Benaroya Picture presentation, in association with Screen NSW, of a Goalpost Pictures, Blue-Tongue Films production. Produced by Rosemary Blight, Joel Edgerton, Michael Benaroya. Executive producers, Ben Grant, Joel Pearlman, Seph McKenna, Lisa Wilson, Myles Nestel, Craig Chapman, Ben Sachs, Logan Levy. Co-producers, James Lejsek, Lauren Edwards.

Crew:

Directed by Matthew Saville. Screenplay, Joel Edgerton. Camera (color, widescreen), Mark Wareham; editor, Geoff Hitchins; music, Bryony Marks; production designer, Karen Murphy; art director, Sophie Nash; costume designer, Joanna Mae Park; supervising sound editors (Dolby digital), William Ward, Andrew Plain; sound, Grant Shepherd, re-recording mixer, Robert Mackenzie; casting, Gregory Apps.

With:

Joel Edgerton, Jai Courtney, Tom Wilkinson, Melissa George, Sarah Roberts.

More Film

  • RealD 3D logo

    Wanda Cinema Upgrading China Theaters with RealD Screen Order

    Wanda Cinema Line has placed an order for 100 RealD Ultimate Screens from visual tech specialist RealD. For RealD the deal, announced at the CineAsia convention in Hong Kong, is the largest order in its history from a single exhibition circuit. The high-end equipment, which optimizes the 3D experience, will be installed in Wanda’s mainland [...]

  • Aisling Franciosi

    European Film Promotion Unveils 2019 Shooting Stars

    Aisling Franciosi (“The Nightingale”), Ardalan Esmaili (“The Charmer”) and Elliott Crosset Hove (“Winter Brothers”) are among the 10 actors and actresses who have been named as the European Film Promotion’s Shooting Stars. Previous Shooting Stars include Alicia Vikander, Matthias Schoenaerts, Pilou Asbæk and Baltasar Kormákur. The new crop of up-and-coming talent for the 22nd edition of [...]

  • Jodie Foster'Money Monster' photocall, Palais, 69th

    Film News Roundup: Jodie Foster to Direct, Star in Remake of Icelandic Thriller

    In today’s film news roundup, Jodie Foster is remaking Iceland’s “Woman at War,” the Art Directors Guild honors production designers Anthony Masters and Ben Carre, “47 Meters Down: Uncaged” gets cast and Melissa Takal directs “New Year New You” for Hulu. PROJECT ANNOUNCEMENT More Reviews Concert Review: Maxwell Brings Down the House at Rapturous Hometown [...]

  • Jake Gyllenhaal

    Jake Gyllenhaal to Star in Remake of Denmark's Oscar Entry 'The Guilty' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Bold Films, and Jake Gyllenhaal and Riva Marker’s Nine Stories banner have acquired the rights to remake the Danish thriller “The Guilty,” with Gyllenhaal attached to star. The pic won the world cinema audience award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and was also named one of the top five foreign language films of 2018 by [...]

  • Toxic Avenger

    'Toxic Avenger' Movie in the Works at Legendary

    Legendary Entertainment is developing “The Toxic Avenger” as a movie after acquiring the feature film rights. Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz of Troma Entertainment will serve as producers. Alex Garcia and Jay Ashenfelter will oversee for Legendary. More Reviews Concert Review: Maxwell Brings Down the House at Rapturous Hometown Show Film Review: 'Jirga' Kaufman and [...]

  • Constance Wu

    'Crazy Rich Asians' Star Constance Wu in Negotiations for Romantic Comedy

    “Crazy Rich Asians” star Constance Wu is in talks to join Sony’s Screen Gems’ untitled romantic comedy, with Elizabeth Banks and Max Handelman producing. “GLOW” actress Kimmy Gatewood is making her feature directorial debut on the project. She will be directing from a Savion Einstein script about a woman who becomes pregnant with two babies [...]

  • Maggie Gyllenhaal AoA

    Maggie Gyllenhaal on Why a Woman Director Doesn't Automatically Make a Story More Feminine

    Having a female director doesn’t automatically make a story more feminine, says “The Kindergarten Teacher” star Maggie Gyllenhaal, but when it comes to her film with director Sara Colangelo, she says the female narrative is fully encapsulated. “Just because something is written or directed by a woman doesn’t necessarily make it a feminine articulation,” she says [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content