(director/writer: Thomas M. Wright; screenwriter: based on the book “The Sting: The Undercover Operation That Caught Daniel Morcombe’s Killer” by Kate Kyriacou; cinematographer: Sam Chiplin; editor: Simon Njoo; music: Oliver Coates; cast: Joel Edgerton (Mark Frame), Sean Harris (Henry Teague), Jada Alberts (Kate Rylett), Alan Dukes (John), Jeff Lang (Milliken offsider), Cormac Wright (son), Gary Wadell (WA Head), Ewan Leslie (Asst. Commissioner Milliken), Simon Elrahi (Victorian Lt.), (Matthew Sunderland (Controller), Fletcher Humphyrs (Graham Ikin), Steve Mouzakis (Paul Emery); Runtime: 117; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Rachel Gardner/Iain Canning/Kerry Kohansky-Roberts/Kim Hodgert/Emile Sherman/Joel Edgerton; Blue-Tongue films/Netflix; 2022-Australia)

 “Finely tuned unconventional crime drama about a brooding psychopath protagonist.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Australian actor-turned-writer- director, Thomas M. Wright (“Acute Misfortune”), finely helms this unconventional crime drama about a brooding psychopath protagonist. The Stranger is based on Kate Kyriacou’s book The Sting: the Undercover Operation that Caught Daniel Morcombe’s Killer. It’s a stylish true crime story that took place in Australia in 2003–as it covers the case of Daniel Morcombe, the 13-year-old boy who disappeared from a Queensland bus stop.

On an overnight bus trip to Western Australia, the strangers Paul (Steve Mouzakis) and Henry Teague (Sean Harris) meet and instantly become friends. Not concerned about anything fishy, Henry helps Paul buy a used car and allows him to use his address. As payback, Paul later offers Henry a job with his friends. Henry agrees to take it if it requires no violence. He thereby meets Paul’s friend, Mark Frame (Joel Edgerton), who frankly tells him Paul has a criminal record and that his people can erase that record if he works for his group. Paul has been given papers so he can move to a safe place with a new identity. This interests Henry, who takes up Mark’s offer and works with Mark at moving drugs around. What he doesn’t know is Mark is an undercover cop. The cops believe Henry might be responsible for the kidnapping of an 8-year-old boy some eight years ago and are trying to entrap him in a sting operation.

We learn in May 2002 a child named James Liston was snatched at a bus stop and vanished. The police think he’s been killed, but nevertheless go easy with the suspect in case the child is still alive and do not want to alarm the suspect to possibly kill the child if they’re wrong. Henry’s a suspect because police reports are that he had a prior and was seen driving in the area at the time of the crime.

Kate Rylett (Jada Alberts) is the cop who heads the investigation. After Henry is released the police spring their trap. By befriending him and getting him to completely trust Mark, they learn he changed his name and served time before for molesting a child (something they never knew because of the name change).

The understated thriller does a good job showing how this menacing person was finally apprehended by tricking him into confessing and showing where he buried the vic’s body.

It played at the Cannes Film Festival.

THE STRANGER - Cannes Film Festival

REVIEWED ON 11/18/2022  GRADE: B+