The Hard Word (2002)

Rating: B+

Dir: Scott Roberts
Star: Guy Pearce, Rachel Griffiths, Joel Edgerton, Damien Richardson

The Twentyman brothers may be in jail, but it’s not all bad – they get out on day-release to rob armoured cars, as long as the proceeds are split with the cops. Such a relationship is never going to be the most stable, and it’s only a matter of time before they are coerced into a freelance job, robbing bookmakers at a hotel after the Melbourne Cup (Australia’s version of the Derby). Their former partners are unimpressed by such independence, and the quest is on for them and the twenty million dollar haul. Pearce plays the leader of the clan, and about the only people he trusts are his two brothers, one slow, the other borderline psychotic, liable to go off if he can’t get Pepsi, an interesting twist on product placement. Though he pales besides Tarzan (Dorian Nikona), a nutter with dyslexia – we thought this plot point might tie into the brothers’ ability to talk backwards to each other (a homage to Pearce’s Memento?), but it goes nowhere.

This is full of lovable rogues, deceitful villains, and Characters with a capital C: Guy Ritchie, gone quirkily Antipodean. Speaking of C’s, it has more uses of a certain expletive than you’ll ever hear in Hollywood, and it’s the only time I’ve seen a female character draw a smiley face on a window with her vaginal juices. “Down-to-earth” doesn’t even begin to describe this. It seems as if the writers chose to cram in all the ideas they could; less might well have been more here, since a few threads are underdeveloped. However, the main plot is handled with great efficiency, and interest never flags. Everyone’s out to screw everyone – sometimes literally – and the resulting mayhem is refreshing and energetic. Besides, any movie which includes death by lava-lamp is okay by us.