Felony **** (out of five)
You always know a really good movie in the first few minutes. It feels in control, on top of things, and you can allow it your trust, and settle back. Within about five minutes, a really good movie has put you in some sort of suspense – all good movies, no matter the genre, rely in some way or another on suspense – all stories do – because all stories should have you wondering “what happens next?” And certain really good movies invoke a response, in critics and filmmakers often conscious, in general moviegoers often subconscious: wow, this is a good script.
Felony, written by Joel Edgerton, is a really good script, and Matthew Saville has directed a really good, really suspenseful movie out of it. Inhabiting the nighttime, short sleeved, coffee cups and cheap suits world of police sergeants, officers and detectives who all feel real – as they did in Saville’s excellent Noise (2007) – Edgerton plays the superbly named Mal Toohey, a good cop who lets his good sense momentarily, and complicatedly, desert him, and then wrestles with the consequences… which, inevitably, grow, and grow worse.
Everyone’s good in the film. Edgerton has generously written for Wilkinson (and Saville has closely, and thus generously, framed) the kind of single-take, long monologues that are easy to clip into movie awards shows and easy to honour with movie awards; he will win some for his work here, no doubt. But Edgerton, in a role similar in moral complexity to his Dave in the brilliant Wish You Were Here (2012), and Courtney, who may have the most difficult role, being the straightest, are every bit as compelling.
This is gritty cop stuff at its finest. It smells authentic, the dilemmas are immediate and relatable, and the suspense is relentless. And that’s just the first five minutes. See it.