The problem with labeling something “mystery/thriller” is that people are expecting something mysterious and/or thrilling, usually both, depending on how they parse the (“/”) slash. Of course, it’s only a problem if you’re not mysterious and thrilling, but it can be a problem even if you never meant to be mysterious or thrilling.
Such is the case with the new Aussie movie, Felony., directed by TV veteran Matthew Saville and written by Joel Edgerton (best known as an actor: Zero Dark Thirty, Animal Kingdom).
Felony is a straight-up cop drama featuring Edgerton as a hero cop who celebrates a collar by getting drunk with his cop pals, using his cop privilege to get around drunky checkpoints, and then hitting a kid with his car.
Jai Courtney (A Good Day To Die Hard, Jack Reacher) is the rookie boy scout who suspects right away something is up, despite grizzled veteran Tom Wilkinson “handling things” so as to keep the blue wall smooth and impenetrable.
We’re not breaking any new ground here. But that’s okay, really. Less okay, at least as far as staying awake goes, is that its tense, low-key, powder-keg-about-to-go-off feel never really pays off. I mean, one isn’t required to have a big blowout to resolve a drama, but if you choose to go that direction, you’d probably better have some other theme that you’re banging on so that the movie has some resonance, as they call it.
Otherwise, it’s just a bunch of stuff that happens. Which is also something you can do, if you’re pouring on the style.
I’m reminded somehow of fledgling songwriters, who are desperate to do something other than one of the four-or-five dominant chord pop-music progressions. Sometimes they’ll do something that sounds bad, but this movie is more like refusing to play out the final chords because they’re clichéd.
Maybe that’s off base. I don’t know. It didn’t grab us, The Boy probably even less than me.
Our bias here, though, is (at least in part) a not great love of cop drama tropes. I have a thing—and it’s been a while since I’ve talked about one of my things—about cops following the law.
In short: I think they oughtta.
In fact, I think they oughtta be Boy Scouts, meticulous followers of the law, both professionally and personally. They have the monopoly on force, locally speaking, and they’re charged with using that force to protect the public, with The Law being the framework in which they act.
I think, for example, that they should scrupulously follow traffic laws, instead of that weird thing they do now where they drive too slowly looking for people to pull over, then suddenly drive too fast because they’re bored or whatever and are going to go hunting somewhere else.
Never mind the whole lying under oath or on reports, hitting suspects, and above all covering for the crimes their fellow cops commit. The latter being the very definition of corruption which, as far as I can tell, they all do (or at least tolerate).
I hate the pop culture trope of “cops are people, too”, because while they of course are, they shouldn’t be while they’re on duty. They’re supposed to be better than the rest of us. That’s why we trust them with guns and cars and so on.
So, when our premise begins with “hero cop has a few too many and can’t be arsed to get anyone to drive him home”, I’m lacking a certain amount of sympathy. And when the support for covering things up is, “Well, we’ve gotta arrest all these guys selling controlled substances to people who want to buy them,” I’ve got a pretty dim view of that, too.
Good acting. Direction and writing is fine, at least in the details, while not really grabbing either of us. It’s an okay movie, if you’re in the mood for a cop drama. It is, however, devoid of both mystery and thrills, so don’t be fooled.