HARD WORD, THE
The brothers Dale (Guy Pearce) Mal (Damien Richardson) and Shane (Joel Edgerton) are hardly out of jail when they’re into their next robbery – and as usual, no-one gets hurt. Their lawyer Frank (Robert Taylor) is part of the finely tuned criminal system, as are some bad cops like O’Riordan (Paul Sonkkila) and Kelly (Vince Colosimo). But when greed and sex – in the shape of Dale’s wife Carol (Rachel Griffiths) - fire up people like Frank, who knows where the once nice ‘n easy business will end.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The Hard Word is a bang up, laugh out loud, squirm and smirk sort of movie, gripping with its edginess, impressive for its razor sharp Australian dialogue and powerful for its truthfulness about the venality in the police system. But its towering achievement is in the portrayal of three brothers and their mateship as a fortress against the vicious world outside. Yet it is also a subtle work in many ways, preferring to draw the audience in, rather than letting it all hang out – even though it looks as though it does. (It was originally to be called Blood & Guts, but a previous film of that name forced a rethink.) Inspired by a variety of elements ranging from the 50s American show Bonanza (the brothers) to true stories about bad cops and good crims, writer director Scott Roberts has etched a cops and robbers story out of Australian gold, showing that genre filmmaking with Australian social icons is a valuable and valid exercise. Joel Edgerton confirms his prowess as one of this country’s most powerful character actors, a sort of young Jack Nicholson, working here with a talented and well directed ensemble cast. Guy Pearce is welcome home in a role that stretches him physically and mentally, and Damien Richardson does a remarkable job of the dopey but golden third brother. Rachel Griffiths and Robert Taylor are also terrific in crucial roles, and the film looks so good you don’t notice the production design. The same could be said for the music, but I did notice that, and love it. Ballsy, inventive and melodic at the right times, it avoids cliché without drawing attention to itself (other than to me, maybe…). In the final analysis, The Hard Word is a great escape movie with a wealth of characterisation to make it stick to you for a while. And some disturbing aspects to take to heart.
Review by Louise Keller:
The Hard Word is a real ripper. You know when a film grabs your attention and then you’re hooked. There is nothing more satisfying than thriving on every twist and turn, laughing at the unexpected and taking the characters to heart. A wonderfully black, quirky comedy, The Hard Word is a beautifully conceived, written and executed heist movie with a distinctive Australian flavour. They’re all crooked – the crooks, the cops, the lawyers – and one of the joys of the film is letting the pieces of the puzzle fall together. First time writer/director Scott Roberts has created a marvellous work, filled with good writing, crazy characters and situations which often leave us breathless. It’s a wild, entertaining ride on the edge, and everything works. What a pleasure it is to see Guy Pearce dazzle on home turf as Dale, ‘the smart one’ with animalistic urges and hidden depths. It’s a sharp u-turn from his recent US films that may have been big on budget, but short changed on satisfaction. It’s a top performance, and you may need to look twice to even recognise Pearce, with his sunken, wild-eyed look that would seem at home on a park bench. Rachel Griffiths’ Carol - blonde, busty bombshell with a raunchy libido and all the qualities of a dog except loyalty – is a marvel. ‘She’s right shop, wrong rack’ says costume designer Terry Ryan, and we are constantly on edge, never sure which way Carol will turn. But much of the film is like that, and there is constant pleasure in genuinely not knowing what is about to happen. Damien Richardson and Joel Edgerton are terrific as Dale’s brothers – will we ever be able to forget Mal’s penchant for making blood sausages, nor Shane’s mother-fixated, one-screw loose, will flip if a lie is told persona. Robert Taylor’s lawyer Frank is slippery and sleazy, fulfilling every lawyer joke you’ve ever heard. The humour comes so naturally and we never get a sense of ideas drying up or the storyline becoming contrived. There are some funny lines – a couple of my favourites are ‘you smell better than Christmas dinner’ and ‘let’s go to France so we can get pissed and look at paintings’. Music and production values are great with Sydney and Melbourne both taking centre stage. But there are plenty of surprises, and I certainly won’t spoil them by revealing too much. Edgy, compelling and a genuinely feel-good movie with a black heart, The Hard Word is a treat.
Email this article
GUY PEARCE interview by Andrew L. Urban
SCOTT ROBERTS interview
HARD WORD, THE (MA)
CAST: Guy Pearce, Rachel Griffiths, Robert Taylor, Joel Edgerton, Damien Richardson, Rhondda Findleton, Kate Atkinson, Vince Colosimo, Paul Sonkkila, Kim Gyngell, Dorian Nkono
PRODUCER: Al Clark
DIRECTOR: Scott Roberts
SCRIPT: Scott Roberts
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Brian Breheny ACS
EDITOR: Martin Connor
MUSIC: David Thrussell
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Paddy Reardon
RUNNING TIME: 103 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 30, 2002