London Film Festival Review: Son Of A Gun

Yes, that's Ewan McGregor on the right.

Yes, that’s Ewan McGregor on the right.

 

Title:                                     Son Of A Gun

Certificate:                           15

Director:                               Julius Avery

Major Players:                     Ewan McGregor, Brenton Thwaites, Alicia Vikander

Out Of Five:                         3

 

Don’t be fooled. Despite the title, Son Of A Gun has nothing to do with westerns.  It’s actually a crime thriller, all the way from Australia, although there are echoes of gritty Pom gangster movies running right through it.

Young JR (Brenton Thwaites) has been sent to jail for a minor crime and has only six months to serve. He’s naïve, but smart enough to know he needs protection to survive the brutal regime and soon catches the attention of notorious criminal Brendan Lynch (Ewan McGregor).  It comes at a price, though, once the youngster is out of prison, as he arranges Lynch’s audacious prison escape and then finds himself caught up in a heist involving some double crossing Eastern Europeans, a streetwise girl and an awful lot of gold bullion.

The film starts off looking like an Aussie version of Starred Up – but without Ben Mendelsohn – reeking of testosterone and, if anything, even more brutal. It certainly pulls no punches about JR’s cellmate, who has been destroyed by being a plaything for a trio of muscle bound thugs.  The boy kills himself when it simply gets too much and then his tormentors come after JR – but they run into Lynch instead.

Once we get outside the prison walls – via a cheeky escape involving a tourist helicopter and an awful lot of bullets – we’re straight into heist territory. Admittedly, it’s set against a much bigger backdrop because we’re down under and, in the main, there’s lots of sunshine and arid dust whirling around.  When JR’s first out of prison, he gets a taste of the good life as he’s put up in a very sleek beachside apartment.  But it’s still a heist movie.

The target is a gold mine, which smelts the stuff into bars on site. The Eastern European gang has all the inside info, making it easy for Lynch and his gang to get inside and steal the latest batch of gold bars.  That, of course, is the theory, but you have a horrible feeling that JR might get things wrong and indeed he does.  They get their gold, escape courtesy of one of the most skilled getaway drivers you’ve ever seen, but one of Lynch’s prison buddies dies in the crossfire.

The film has some great action sequences – the car chase immediately after the heist is especially good – but in all honesty it offers very little new to the heist genre. An interesting chess motif also runs through its entirety, initially connecting JR with Lynch and demonstrating that, although the younger man might be a touch green, he’s also intelligent.  And when he meets the Eastern European gangsters for the first time, he brings a message from Lynch with him.  It’s a chess move!  Ironically, though, it’s Lynch the chess expert who ends up back in prison.

The one thing really stands out is Ewan McGregor’s searing performance. Initially almost unrecognisable underneath a bushy beard, he’s compelling as the razor sharp, single minded Lynch who lets nothing stand in his way.  At times, his eyes are nothing short of alarming.  Even better is that he’s not been asked to adopt an Aussie accent – he’s still pure Scots and it works a treat.

Son Of A Gun is an exciting enough ride, showy at times and with some good set pieces. But, despite a stand-out piece of acting from McGregor, it remains a solid heist movie with just a touch of Aussie twang.

 

Son Of A Gun was shown at the London Film Festival on 17, 18 and 19 October. It’s released around the UK on 25 January 2015.

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