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Awesome: 29.79%
Worth A Look: 19.15%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%

5 reviews, 17 user ratings

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Hard Word, The
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by Erik Childress

"Great Acting, 17 Endings Can't Overcome the Familiar"
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2003 SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST FILM FESTIVAL: Oh glorious day in the country – another heist flick. This time the continent is Australia and the mark is the Dick Francis favorite – the racetrack. There’s also a crew, a corrupt lawyer, a lecherous wife, double-crosses, nudity and fake prosthetics. In other words, nothing new that a single year filled of The Score, Ocean’s Eleven and Heist didn’t already cover. And by cover I mean copy, redo, redux, do-over. Anyway you say it, it still comes out the same way. Even with stellar acting.

Guy Pierce plays Dale, the fraternal leader of a group of thieving brothers. Mal (Damien Richardson) is the sweet-natured master of the culinary arts and Frank (Joel Edgerton) is the Russell Crowe-like Australian that’s ready to throw down at the drop of a hat. No Coke – Pepsi! Serving out their latest sentence, they have a sweet deal courtesy of the corrupt higher-ups that spring them for a day to pull a job and back inside before the judge’s ink on the release form is dry.

One of the front men for this nifty little scheme is Dale’s lawyer, Frank (Robert Taylor), a slimy bugger who’s been using more than legal briefs to bed down his client’s wife, Carol (Rachel Griffiths). Dale suspects something is up and would like nothing better than to repair his damaged relationship. But work comes first and Frank has the obligatory one final job that will spring the brothers for good and set everyone up for life, even if that means a grave.

The Hard Word sets itself up on a high mark, earmarking the usual clichés we see coming and instead turning it into a film about people instead of “the job.” The three brothers carry the usual label of the Smart, the Nice and the Insane, but are all given individual scenes that play as rather unique. These guys have each other’s backs and avoid the standardized Mr. Blonde routine where one psycho causes more problems than he should (at least between the brothers.) Frank even succumbs to a motherly fetish when a psychiatrist tries to breakthrough to his inner demons. Freud ain’t got nothing on this guy.

But Frank does and isn’t nearly the criminal mastermind anyone, including himself and the director thinks he is. He may be the man with the plan and the schematics to get you in and out, but he’s watched 3000 Miles to Graceland more times than The Italian Job. Some people plan elaborate cons. Others go in with guns blazing and lay waste to the place. Frank’s new hired gun, Tarzan (Dorian Nikona) is setup in the Michael Madsen/Vinnie Jones tradition and makes quite an early impression, only to be treated as an afterthought instead of one of those great villains that lingers.

The Hard Word gets more than a little disjointed towards the end. Never quite deciding on one of their six potential endings, director Scott Roberts decides to just film them all and hopefully concluding on a satisfactory note, which it does not. It’s the actors who keep the familiar material afloat. Pierce is first-rate with his bottled up charm and rage and how can you not love a femme fatale like Griffiths that will visit you in prison and spread her cooch juice into a smiley face on the glass between you. Joel Edgerton shines brightest (especially in the early scenes) to have the leg up on becoming the next star to come out of the outback.

Tarantino beget copycats and those copycats beget Guy Ritchie. Stylistic crime films will always find a way into theaters and will always be a calling card for up ‘n’ coming young directors. But how many heists can there be and how many ways can a psychopath kill someone? How many twists can one cram into a screenplay and how many endings will it take to resolve all of them? The Hard Word is not a complete failure, just a familiarized one that’s not going to woo away any fans of the directors who know how to do it right. And hundreds of times before.

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originally posted: 03/22/03 05:18:29
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 SXSW Film Festival. For more in the 2003 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Philadelphia Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Seattle Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

5/20/04 Agent Sands Pretty fun and clever. Good music score. 4 stars
7/23/03 Matt Williams God movie, charcater based and not all violence, good flick 4 stars
6/01/03 Mina Hollywood better start improving their actor's abilities after seeing this one 5 stars
5/06/03 dj bronnie I'm a film reviewer and I loved the freshness of this film. No Hollywood manufacturing 5 stars
3/27/03 Tia Larsen better than dirty deeds 5 stars
11/03/02 Mina Pearce is the first "real" actor I've seen in years! 5 stars
7/04/02 Sarah Leheny brilliant 5 stars
6/24/02 ^Elendil^ Fun. Exciting. Some humour. Much suspense. Worthwhile popcorn fare. 4 stars
5/31/02 J Shemberiton full of pace looks beautiful,sounds great 5 stars
5/31/02 young one love Guy 5 stars
5/31/02 camster full of suspense 5 stars
5/31/02 clackers brilliant 5 stars
5/31/02 maddies cousin sexy 5 stars
5/31/02 maddie very cool 5 stars
5/31/02 james S great action 5 stars
5/31/02 homlby just great 5 stars
5/31/02 Barry Breen Astounding 5 stars
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  13-Jun-2003 (R)



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