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HARD WORD, THE (aka: Blood And Guts)(director/writer: Scott Roberts; cinematographer: Brian Breheny; editor: Martin Connor; music: David Thrussell; cast: Guy Pearce (Dale Twentyman), Rachel Griffiths (Carol Twentyman), Robert Taylor (Frank), Joel Edgerton (Shane Twentyman), Damien Richardson (Mal Twentyman), Kate Atkinson (Pamela), Vince Colosimo (Kelly), Paul Sonkkila (O’Riordan), Kim Gyngell (Paul), Rhondda Findleton (Jane), Dorian Nkono (Tarzan); Runtime: 102; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Al Clark; Lions Gate; 2002-Australia/UK)
“Undemanding derivative caper film.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This preposterous neo-noir crime drama tries to be edgy, excessively hard-boiled and wiseass comical, but falls on its rear end when its story line appears to be all about nothing and is filled with awful heist movie clichés. The undemanding derivative caper film marks the directorial debut for Australian writer/director Scott Roberts, who channels the same kind of eccentric moves as Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998). The catchy title is a reference to Aussie slang, of using the ‘hard word’ to force someone to do them a sexual favor. There’s also the amusing bit of the hero criminal brothers using “Butcher Speak,” learned from their butcher father, when they want to converse in public among themselves without others understanding them.

The Twentyman brothers are professional bank robbers from Sydney vowing never to use excessive force, and who are now in prison together. The brains of the outfit is the charismatic thinking man hood, the oldest sibling, Dale (Guy Pearce), the youngest is the picky muscleman weightlifter psycho named Shane (Joel Edgerton) and the good-natured, dopey, chubby prison butcher and renown sausage maker is the middle brother Mal (Damien Richardson). They are sprung from the Long Bay prison by their crooked lawyer (Robert Taylor), who has arranged another heist for his boys. After the successful armored car heist the boys are double-crossed by the oily Frank and are sent back to prison. Dale’s manipulative tart wife Carol (Rachel Griffiths, adorned in an ugly blonde femme fatale wig from 1940’s noir) visits him in prison and the curvaceous lady tries to excite her man as she sticks two fingers between her legs and lifts her skirt and then uses her residue of breath to draw a smiley face on the Plexiglas partition that separates them. But Dale can only think that she’s screwing Frank, and wonders if she goes down on Frank for the money or pleasure or altruistically to protect him. Soon Frank greases the palms of the crooked warden to spring the boys again for a really big job of robbing bookies in a Melbourne hotel, at a time that wagering will max out over the Melbourne Cup. But this time Frank pulls a heist without consulting his silent partners, crooked cops Kelly (Vince Colosimo) and O’Riordan (Paul Sonkkila), and his badassed partners are not happy campers when they discover they are being double-crossed in a heist that leads to further betrayals.

Nothing about the insider bookie heist makes it a compelling watch, as the supposedly cakewalk non-violent robbery results in six dead because an outsider trigger-happy hood named Tarzan (Dorian Nkono) was brought in by Frank and goes ape shit. The brothers wind up with the money bags and flee by train and car back to Sydney, with a determined Frank on their tail to get the money and eliminate them.

The spunky cast can’t do much with this vulgar, predictable and slight story, but there’s marginal fun in seeing them try so darn hard to pull it off with snappy bits such as prison librarian Dale anointing Philip Roth’s, ode to onanism, Portnoy’s Complaint, as the self-help book of choice for his fellow wanker inmates to borrow. But the escapist feel-good caper film pales in comparison to Kubrick’s The Killing (1956), not even coming in the money to that winning innovative heist noir film from which Roberts stole key plot points.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”