March 7, 2011
Cops and Robbers: not Neighbours.In an arresting title sequence, teenager Josh Cody (J) has one eye on the TV, showing the Aussie version of Deal or No Deal, while his Mum, slumped on the sofa, is being treated for a heroin overdose by a couple of dispassionate paramedics. It turns out to be No Deal for his Mum, so J phones up his grandma, ‘Smurf’ Cody (did she have a blue rinse at one time?), to find out what to do about funeral arrangements. She takes him under her wing and into her house.
It’s then that it dawns on J just why he has been protected from the rest of the Cody family by his mother: these are not nice Neighbours in Melbourne; they are a bunch of ruthless armed robbers. J walks in as they divide out the spoils of their latest foray. While they are counting the cash they are also discussing the police armed robbery squad, who have adopted an interesting tactic of their own: they simply shoot men they suspect of being robbers. So the boundaries of good and evil are not drawn as they were the old black and white cops and robbers days. J soon meets one of the cops, a Detective Nathan Leckie, who tries to use J’s naivety to convict his uncles.
That’s the set-up: the tension between family and the police, that we see through the eyes of J. How it all plays out is fascinating.
It’s a terrific thriller, written and directed with great confidence by David Michod, and acted out by a top-notch cast: James Frecheville debuts as J, playing the seemingly dumb teenager with maturity; Ben Mendelson stars as his alpha male brother, Pope, a scarily realistic sociopath; Jacki Weaver is totally convincing as Smurf, the creepy granny who likes to kiss her ‘boys’ on the lips; and Guy Pearce steals the show as Detective Leckie, reprising his LA Confidential rather than his The King’s Speech, a cop who just might have had a white one if they’d worn hats.
Minor quibbles: it’s a bit slow at times, with lingering shots of actors thinking about something, and although interesting the music can be a bit intrusive. However, it’s safe to say this is another absorbing gem of a film from Australia.