2014 / Directors. Tony Mahony. Angus Sampson.
Review by Jarret Gahan.
Ray Jenkins (Angus Sampson) is a twenty-five year old man who heralds from Sunshine where he lives at home with his parents, works an undervalued nine-to-five at a television repair store and whose only extracurricular activity is seemingly playing for a community football club. At an end-of-season club celebration, local businessman Pat Shepherd (John Noble) announces he will generously fund the team’s post-season trip to Thailand and awards Ray the honour of player of the year. Pat’s underlying intention becomes clear when he convinces vice-captain and delinquent Gavin (Leigh Whannell) to coerce Ray into bringing half a kilo of heroin concealed in his person back into the country. Ray, driven by both a naïve desire to be accepted and hope that the money earned will resolve family debt, accepts Gavin’s proposition. Things go awry the moment Ray returns to Australia though, singled out by customs, his bags searched, a cavity exam performed and threatened with an x-ray to reveal the contents of his stomach. However as the x-ray is consensual, Ray declines the request to undergo one and is subsequently detained at a nearby airport hotel for a period of seven days where we he can be monitored twenty-four seven by the federal police. Supervising officers, Detectives Croft (Hugo Weaving) & Paris (Ewen Leslie) then proceed to spend the entire week playing good cop bad cop and using every trick in the book to manipulate and bully the truth along with the drugs out of Ray.
Sampson & Whannell’s screenplay is a clever one, not too dissimilar to an Elmore Leonard novel, richly layered, sullenly funny and blissfully disorientating with every twist and turn. Skilfully directed by Sampson and revered Australian music video stalwart Tony Mahony, the pair bring a style and sheen that not only does justice to its source material but elevates the film to that of an international standard. While period orientated cinema can often prove problematic for Australian productions due to the sheer fiscal value required for a film to work, THE MULE nails it with costuming, production design and a new wave score befitting its early-eighties era. The score by Mikey Young & Cornel Wilczek is in fact exceptional, pulsating and anthemic, it has your foot tapping in time with the shivers down your spine, infectious and brooding, it will stay with you for days. THE MULE is the full package, half a kilo of Australian drama cut with precise measures of laughs and suspense, worthy of your thorough inspection.
THE MULE releases digitally in Australia on November 21st and physically on DVD & Blu-Ray
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