J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Felony: Tom Wilkinson Covers for Joel Edgerton

Even in laidback Australia, cops are still cops. It’s not like they’re issued a Fosters along with their gun and badge. A drunken driving incident could cost a good copper like Det. Mal Toohey everything, but the subsequent cover-up will have even greater implications in Matthew Saville’s Felony (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Toohey’s long planned drugs raid was a spectacular success. The only wrinkle was the slug he took in the vest. Hailed as a hero, he spent the night celebrating with his colleagues. Unfortunately, he clips a cyclist on the way home. As decent person, Toohey immediately calls it in, but plays the role of witness rather than an involved party. As it happens, veteran detective Carl Summer and his goody-two-shoes new partner Jim Melic are on patrol nearby. After a quick private caucus with Toohey, Summer molds his story into something that will fit the scene.

Obviously, this is not an incident Summer wants to revisit, but Melic cannot let it go, in part due to his attraction to the comatose boy’s Indian mother. While Summer ought to be able to bluff and bully him into line, Toohey starts complicating matters with his inconvenient guilt-tripping.

Written by co-star Joel Edgerton (the future Uncle Owen in the next batch of Stars Wars prequels), Felony is a cop story long on angst and short on firearms discharge. It is a good vehicle for Edgerton’s brooding chops, but Tom Wilkinson really steals the show as Summer, the darkly complex veteran. He is truly one of the best in the business. Wisely, as Toohey and Melic, Edgerton and Jai Courtney go the quiet, understated route, rather than try to compete with the wonderfully acerbic persona Wilkinson creates. In contrast, the women in Felony do not have much to do, but at least Melissa George gets one good scene as Toohey’s concerned wife.

Saville skillfully contrasts the nocturnal noir vibe of the detectives’ world with the disorienting sunshine of regular life. Felony’s themes and conflicts are not exactly undiscovered territory, but they provide plenty of grist for the talented co-stars to dig into.  It is a solid cop morality play that gets a further boost from Wilkinson’s crafty presence. Recommended for fans of the cast and supporters of Australian cinema, Felony opens this Friday (10/17) in New York at the Cinema Village.

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