Sydney, Australia. Three detectives are drawn into a hit-and-run case which seems straight forward at first, but soon proves to be a cover up. A child on his paper round is knocked off his bicycle in the early morning and falls into a coma. He fights to survive as the detectives investigate.
The three detectives represent different stages of a police career. Tom Wilkinson is Carl Sumner. The oldest and highest ranked. He has been in the Force for years and sees himself as intellectually and morally superior, not only to the criminals he chases, but also the men and women under his command. He is not above cutting corners in order to get a result.
Joel Edgerton is Malcolm Toohey. Malcolm is mid-career. Basically a good cop who is a key member of his team. He enjoys the job, the people and his young family. We see him at work and understand he’s a brave man, but not a thinker.
Jai Courtney is Jim Melic. Jim is the new boy. Only recently promoted to detective. He is hard-working, intelligent and keen to impress his superior Carl. He is also by-the-book and this is something Carl would like to see change.
It’s Jim who first senses the story about the hit-and-run is a bit off. Jim meets the boy’s mother Ankhila (Sarah Roberts). He begins looking into the case of his own accord and soon runs into resistance from Carl. Carl orders Jim off and points out he is wasting time and money looking for the driver responsible for the hit-and-run.
FELONY is written by Edgerton and is a slow-burn drama about truth, corruption and the abuse of power. It makes these points efficiently rather than elegantly and it runs into some bumpy ground storywise, particularly in its final minutes. Whether Edgerton’s performance is affected by also being the screenwriter is difficult to say. He usually excels at masculine regular guy characters and always manages to inject them with an interesting spin as in THE WAITING CITY (2009) and WISH YOU WERE HERE (2012). I didn’t detect another layer in his portrayal of Malcolm, which is surprising given that director Matthew Saville (CLOUD STREET) usually elicits strong and nuanced performances from his actors. (Sidebar: Edgerton’s Tom Buchanan in Luhrman’s THE GREAT GATSBY is one of the best movie portrayals of this character. So he can impress even when it seems he is outside of his comfort zone.)
Wilkinson is as good as one would expect, but it’s Courtney who steals the show. His portrait of a relative innocent who begins to wise-up is a subtle piece of work. There are almost no other characters given the room to make an impression. This is a three-hander set in a largely blokey world, where mateship is demanded and covering your arse is the golden rule. Veteran actor Tracy Mann (TV’s Wonderland) has a puzzling cameo that suggests some of her storyline didn’t make the final cut. Melissa George plays Malcom’s wife.
FELONY is a morality tale that engages through its casting choices and cinematography. It’s a middle-brow drama with some good moments, but it never completely finds its groove. The movie is in the latter part of its run in Perth, and it’s still easy enough to find a session. It is 105 minutes long. I rate it a 6/10.