If you haven’t experienced a Blue-Tongue Films production, you’re gonna wanna get jumping on this bandwagon post haste. Essentially, a group of Aussie stuntmen and actors couldn’t get into film school, so they decided “fuck it” and started making their own damn high-octane, cruelly violent, mind-punching films. Already, some of them enjoyed the tickle of the cinema elite’s tongue on their taints, getting accolades at Cannes, Sundance, and tons of options and offers. Of all this rowdy crew, perhaps the frontrunners can be considered Joel and Nash Edgerton. You may have seen Joel as young Uncle Owen in Star Wars: Episodes I-III — that is, if you aren’t a Lucacaust Denier. Nash has been blowing up things since Kurt Cobain sang sad songs so much, but he’s recently had crazy success with his short films Spider (a must-see on Netflix Watch Instantly) and Miracle Fish, which just got nominated for an Academy award. The two bantam brothers bring us the thrilling neo-noir The Square, which came out several years ago but just recently found its way to American shores. It’s a tight little murder-mystery, which could have come straight out of an old 1940s Detective Comics, and suffers only from a vaguely languorous pace. Otherwise, it’s a knockout effort from an exciting batch of filmmakers who heard Hollywood say “no, thanks” and decided “Fuck you, Joboo. I’ll do it myself.”
The premise of The Square wouldn’t have been out of place on a shelf with Jim Thompson or Raymond Chandler, a tale of infidelity, larceny, blackmail and murder only updated with modern technology. A crooked contractor, Ray Yale (David Roberts), has been having a fling with one of his neighbors, a hairdresser named Carla (Claire van der Boom). They meet up wherever they can find the time — in their cars under bridges or in hotel rooms. Ray’s promised Carla they’ll leave their spouses and run away together. Only problem is Carla’s husband Greg (Anthony Hayes) is a small time crook. Carla spies Greg stashing a shitload of money in their laundry room and steals a little for herself with the idea that she and Ray ought to snatch up the cash and run away. Ray knows this’ll never work, so he hires an arsonist named Billy (Joel Edgerton, who wrote the script with Matthew Dabner) to burn down the house to hide the robbery. Ray pays off Billy with a kickback from the cement scam he’s been running at the construction site. It all seems like it’ll go smoothly. Sure it does.
Due to a horrible miscommunication, it all begins to spiral out of control. It’s almost impossible to write this review because breaking down any of the plot points sort of defeats the point of watching the movie. Someone’s blackmailing Ray, and in his efforts to clean up the mess, bodies start piling up. There’s not so much tension as just solid storytelling, watching as the individual players face down each other with huge chase sequences or gunfights. It takes its time — and perhaps a little too much time — getting down to business, but when it finally comes to a head, the fireworks are worth the wait. Nash Edgerton gets a lot of mileage out of his actors, everyone turning in strong performances. And there’s a nice little easter egg buried for people who’ve seen his short Spider.
As an indie filmmaker, Edgerton could have tried to overcompensate or undervalue his project, but instead he turns in an immensely confident and well-plotted film. I didn’t love Miracle Fish, but Spider is an incredibly sick and twisted little flick, and this is just the start of what should be a promising career. I’ve got a lot of hope for Blue-Tongue Fims, particularly since the rest of the world is starting to take notice, and I’m curious to see what they’ll do with some real financial backing. They haven’t yet compromised their vision, and that’s impressive in a world where a film based on Battleship is a major studio release.