UK Release Date: 30th January 2015
Runtime: 109 minutes
Director: Julius Avery
Writer: Julius Avery
Starring: Brenton Thwaites, Ewan McGregor, Alicia Vikander, Jacek Koman
Synopsis: When he is helped in prison by an avuncular armed robber, a young lad finds himself involved in a perilous prison break and a huge gold heist.
In the midst of Oscars season, cinemas are full of talky, artsy films that focus on tortured geniuses or inspirational historical figures. Against that backdrop, sun-baked Aussie actioner Son of a Gun from debut director Julius Avery is something of an anomaly. Thankfully, it’s a thrilling and exciting anomaly that deserves to find a tonne of popularity as a popcorn favourite.
Teenager JR (Brenton Thwaites) finds himself locked up in prison. Inside, he is targeted by thugs and rescued by armed robber Brendan (Ewan McGregor), who needs help from JR in return. Following a daring escape, Brendan and JR take part in a gold heist under the command of Sam (Jacek Koman), whilst JR falls for forbidden fruit in the shape of Tasha (Alicia Vikander).
Son of a Gun is, at its heart, a high-octane action thriller. When I spoke to Julius Avery back in October he said he “didn’t want to do a small, introspective dark film” and was more interested in making something entertaining. That really comes through in Son of a Gun, which has something to say about dangerous father figures, but wraps it all up in hails of machine gun fire.
| "You do not bend the rules for a piece of skirt."
Brenton Thwaites, last seen alongside Karen Gillan in Oculus, does a solid, if unremarkable, job in the lead role. He has a real baby-faced vulnerability to him, that plays well alongside the grizzled, near-sociopathic veteran portrayed by Ewan McGregor.
It is the bastardised father-son relationship between McGregor and Thwaites that gives Son of a Gun its title and its central dynamic. McGregor does an excellent job, shifting from avuncular figure to abusive loose cannon in a matter of seconds. This plays as a perfect contrast to the blind trust of Thwaites, which is not challenged until the arrival of Alicia Vikander’s savvy, sexy love interest.
Vikander, who has dominated cinemas this month in Ex Machina and Testament of Youth, is given little to do by the script, which is far more interested in the masculine posturing than the role of its central woman. In many ways, though, this reflects the world in which Son of a Gun is set – a world in which women are seen as nothing more than a distraction.
Aside from its stellar performances, Son of a Gun is a fairly conventional thriller, but it comes alive thanks to Julius Avery’s directorial flair. Avery’s action is kinetic and explosive, but it never loses coherence, even as bullets fly and tyres comes loose. There’s a real logic to his shooting style that makes the most of both the performances and the gorgeous Australian landscapes that house the action sequences.
| "Things are not as you imagine."
Whilst it is far from perfect and often feels a little too similar to its genre influences, Son of a Gun is a potent thriller full of adrenaline. It marks the arrival of an exciting new voice in the genre, who might not have the subtlety of some voices, but certainly knows how to pack a punch.
Pop or Poop?
Bolstered by the machismo of Ewan McGregor, Son of a Gun is an action thriller that is prepared to get all hot and sweaty. It has no interest in navel-gazing, delivering a straightforward coming of age narrative.
The performances are good and the writing is sharp, but there’s something lacking in the portrayal of its sole major female character.
Despite its flaws, Son of a Gun is a strong film that gives Julius Avery a strong foundation on which to build a successful career.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.