Son of a Gun

Review by Emma Simmonds @EmmaSimmonds

Directed by

Julius Avery

Starring

Alicia Vikander Brenton Thwaites Ewan McGregor

Anticipation.

A director with promise, an interesting role for Ewan McGregor.

Enjoyment.

It’s possible to watch it without your head falling into your hands...

In Retrospect.

Completely falls apart under scrutiny.

Superficial pleasures aside, this sun-bleached buddy crime flick is too light for the long game.

Son of a Gun is less a swaggering, pistol-packing progeny and more like the slightly weedy, none-too-smart offspring of superior bruisers such as Heat and Animal Kingdom. Writer/director Julius Avery makes his feature debut with a sometimes risible Aussie thriller notable for its kinetic camerawork, pacey action sequences and occasional comic flourishes but which is hugely hampered by its adherence to genre clichés, a routine lack of credibility and poorly thought through storyline.

But it’s the casting of the charmless Brenton Thwaites in the lead role that is the film’s biggest problem. Thwaites plays wide-eyed junior crook JR. That he is able to communicate such meagre brain activity sits ill with the fact that he’s portrayed as being a chess whizz who, on arriving in prison for a short stretch, quickly enamours himself to notorious bank robber and fellow chess enthusiast, Brendan (Ewan McGregor).

In exchange for Brendan’s protection inside, JR agrees to help him break out once he’s released, which we witness during a sequence of staggering improbability. Despite his absence of experience and screaming lack of nous, JR then becomes integral to Brendan’s criminal activity, playing a bizarrely pivotal part in a gold heist and entering into a dangerous, absurdly rose-tinted liaison with glamorous Eastern European moll Tasha (played by Swedish actress Alicia Vikander, who in a case of oddly contrasting casting is showing more pluck and less leg as wartime heroine Vera Brittain in Testament of Youth).

As well as taking inspiration from the aforementioned crime thrillers, Son of a Gun’s rushed prison act suffers by comparison to the recent grimly authentic and startlingly compassionate Starred Up. Unlike his young co-star Thwaites, McGregor has screen charisma to spare; nevertheless he remains rather too affable throughout, lacking the lethal edge to cut it as a hardened criminal.

The film’s double-crosses are dunderheaded and the romance is embarrassingly awful, with the reality of Tasha’s situation with criminal boss Sam (Jacek Koman) skirted around in an insulting attempt to keep her a viable, basically ‘clean’ romantic option. We’re told she’s hooked up with the gang in order to secure citizenship; that this doesn’t involve her having to sleep with anyone, just to strut around looking pretty at strip clubs and parties, seems extraordinarily unlikely.

Cinematographer Nigel Bluck, who got his schooling as the second unit DoP on the three Lord of the Rings films, is on hand to save the day, and his urgent, energetic and appealingly sun-kissed work holds your attention beyond the film’s many far-fetched machinations. Avery has produced something that’s superficially entertaining, occasionally amusing and that zips along, so while it stretches credulity at least it won’t test your patience. But place Son of a Gun under even the most cursory scrutiny and it falls completely apart.

Published 30 Jan 2015

Tags: Alicia Vikander Ewan McGregor Julius Avery

Anticipation.

A director with promise, an interesting role for Ewan McGregor.

Enjoyment.

It’s possible to watch it without your head falling into your hands...

In Retrospect.

Completely falls apart under scrutiny.

Related Reviews

Overlord

By Anton Bitel

Two US soldiers make a surprising discovery behind enemy lines in this World War Two horror from Julius Avery.

review LWLies Recommends

The Rover

By David Jenkins

David Michôd emerges from the lion’s den and leaps directly into the furnace for his brilliant second feature.

review LWLies Recommends

Jane Got a Gun

By David Jenkins

Natalie Portman has her finger firmly off the trigger in this calamitous faux feminist western.

review

What are you looking for?

Little White Lies Logo

About Little White Lies

Little White Lies was established in 2005 as a bi-monthly print magazine committed to championing great movies and the talented people who make them. Combining cutting-edge design, illustration and journalism, we’ve been described as being “at the vanguard of the independent publishing movement.” Our reviews feature a unique tripartite ranking system that captures the different aspects of the movie-going experience. We believe in Truth & Movies.

Editorial

Design