The Square (2010) dir. Nash Edgerton
Starring: David Roberts, Claire van der Boom, Joel Edgerton, Anthony Hayes
By Alan Bacchus
A lot has been made of Nash Edgerton’s directorial debut – a neo noir of the ‘Blood Simple’, ‘Bound’, ‘Red Rock West’ persuasion. While 'The Square' is a good film though not quite hitting the high water mark of those films, if anything, the film has a greater significance as the forerunner for an exciting new movement in Australian cinema.
Not many people are talking about it yet, but there’s a germ of a New Wave percolating down under – a group of filmmakers who, over the last 10 years, have been making short films together under the prodco name Blue Tongue Films, of which Nash Edgerton is one. Among the other filmmakers there’s David Michôd, Stephen Susser and Nash’s brother Joel Edgerton.
So far 2010 has been Annus Mirabilis for these lads – David Michôd, arguably showing the most promise with his stunning Sundance festival crime epic ‘Animal Kingdom’ which reminds us of the early bravura work of Paul Thomas Anderson. Spencer Susser’s first film co-written by Michôd, ‘Hesher’, is a lesser work, but shows the same kind Aussie toughness in both ‘The Square’ and ‘Animal Kingdom’. Joel, primarily an actor, has been doing some great character work over the past 10 years, notably in ‘Ned Kelly’, ‘Kinky Boots’, ‘King Arthur’, ‘Smoking Aces’ and the upcoming ‘The Thing’ sequel. He’s also a director and his acclaimed short film, ‘the List’ shows the same style in streetwise cinema as his other colleagues.
But back to the ‘The Square’, it’s a classic neo noir setup – an ordinary everyman finding himself caught up in a high stakes of world of crime. Raymond Yale is a real estate developer working on a new public works project. It’s a stressful job which perhaps is the reason why he’s taken up an extra-marital affair with a neighbour, Carla. They appear to love each other, with Carla holding out for Raymond to end his marriage with his wife. Carla, though is still in a relationship with her petty criminal boyfriend, Greg, and when he comes home with a bag full of cash, Carla sees it as an opportunity to free herself Raymond from their former lives and start all over somewhere, together.
So there’s the classic nourish inciting incident – the temptation of ordinary people by money, greed and lust. In order to satisfy these desires Carla and Raymond have to dip their toes into a complex web of crime and violence. Raymond hires petty thief Billy to steal the bag, burn down their house as a rouse for the stolen money. But as Robert Burns once wrote, ‘the best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry’. Such is the case with Robert. When Greg's house burns down, so does his elderly grandmother. And when Greg smells foul play it doesn't take long before Raymond finds himself scrambling to cover up his tracks – a series of events and mistakes which will result in a tragedy of dramatic proportions.
While no new ground is broken in the genre what Edgerton does best is keeps the pressure cooker on high for virtually the entire movie. As a good screenwriter he puts his character into situations where he’s forced to make a number of decisions with the stakes rising with each choice. His first decision to start up an affair is made before the movie starts, so he’s already below the line of moral decency. His second decision involves stealing Greg’s money and burning his house down. Though Carla isn’t a prototypical femme fatale, Edgerton smartly makes her incitement of this choice. There’s a murder and its subsequent cover up midway through which puts Raymond further down into moral abyss, from which he struggles to climb out of for the rest of the picture and which will ultimately become his downfall.
In addition to the coming out party for Edgerton’s and his Blue Tongue Films gang, his cast of actors rip and roll with each other like a well-oiled machine as many of the key players have been involved with short films as well. There’s no one I’d fear more than a brazen Aussie thug. And Edgerton maximizes this ingrained culture of toughness in Aussie males. Edgerton dramatizes his world of crime with these types of characters in all corners of his picture. His other Blue Tongue Films colleagues appear to be doing the same as well.
Don’t forget to check out ‘Animal Kingdom’ when it gets a release later this year.
Here's trailer for The Square
Here's a trailer of Animal Kingdom