REVIEW: “THE DRY” (2021) IFC Films

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There is nothing like the surprise of finding a really good thriller watch unexpectedly and this wonderful, well-paced whodunnit from the steady hand of director Robert Connolly, “THE DRY”, fits the bill just perfectly. It also didn’t hurt that Eric Bana came back to his roots here, not just with an indie film, but with his own accent as well, something that’s always to be appreciated.

Adapted from the 2016 novel by Jane Harper, writers Harry Cripps and Robert Connolly, tap into something elemental about growing up around the Australian bush. Aaron Falk (Eric Bana), who grew up in the small town of Kiewarra, returns to his childhood home for the funeral of his boyhood friend, Luke Hadler (Martin Dingle Wall). Luke’s wife Karen (Rosanna Lockhart), and young son Billy (Jarvis Mitchell), have been killed with only the young baby being spared, and it is assumed that it’s a murder/suicide and Luke is the culprit. Luke’s parents Gerry (Bruce Spence) and Barb (Julia Blake), refuse to believe Luke could kill himself and his family like this and at the funeral, they ask Aaron, who is now a Detective in Melbourne, to do some unofficial investigating. He is hesitant and definitely not welcomed back by the townspeople. Only Luke’s old girlfriend Gretchen (Genevieve O’Reilly), is open to seeing him again. There is a reason for this. But he goes against the threats thrown at him by them and teams up with the young local policeman Sergeant O’Connell (Nick Farnell), and comes up with some unexpected twists and turns around each corner.

While the murder/suicide is the forefront story, we are actually dealing with two mysteries here, the one that is recent, and another that occurred twenty years previously. The film, told with flashbacks back to Aaron as a teenager (Joe Klocek). While teenage Luke (Sam Corlett) and teenage Gretchen (Claude Scott-Mitchell), were a couple, Luke was actually first attached with the beautiful Ellie Deacon (BeBe Bettencourt). The group swam in the river and drank together in the back woods outside of town. Aaron and Ellie’s romance begins to flourish as Luke’s jealousy grows, and through a note given to her at school, he invites her on a river date. She never shows, and is later found drowned. For reasons you will have to watch to suss out, Luke and Aaron concocted a story that they told of being together ‘out shooting rabbits’ – which was never really believed by anyone. In the present, Aaron confronts the deep-seated distrust from the entire town who believes he is responsible for Ellie’s death, as the killings reveal multiple sinister motives behind what could’ve really happened to her.

This film really captures the atmosphere of a small Australian country town and a really good Australian ensemble cast hold together the intriguing storyline. Bana underplays his character to let the story do the talking and just when you decide it’s right in-your-face-obvious who the obsessive killer is, and there is enough information to wrap things up 100% of what links two crimes, they throw in some extra ingredients to throw you off the scent. Again, Eric Bana is fantastic in the lead role and Genevieve O’Reilly excellent, but the younger Ellie played by Bettencourt, and younger Aaron, played by Klocek, do steal some of the show as well. There is a moment where Bettencourt sings acoustically, a haunting version “Under the Milky Way”, by the campfire, that even a week after seeing the film, I find myself still singing because it was so profound. With the characters all so complex and grey with hidden motives galore, psychological dysfunction and layering to mask them all, along with the stories behind them and the town, it creates a wonderful tight and gripping drama. The filming is beautiful but it’s not the environment that is predatory per se’, rather is the characters that move and circle one another that creates the tension and unease. 

The absolute only thing missing is a complete definitive ending, as we do have and odd moment of a blunder that seems a little suspect, but beyond that, the slow-burn and build up for the first 45 or so minutes, leads us into the last 45 minutes of all thrills and suspense.

It really makes you realize, all secrets eventually come to the surface.

‘B’

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Review Screening: Courtesy of ~ IFC Films

“THE DRY” IS OUT IN THEATERS AND ON DEMAND FRIDAY, MAY 21, 2021

REVIEW OF “THE DROP” – FOX SEARCHLIGHT – 2014

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“The Drop” is a story about a man and his dog.. okay..and his cousin/boss who used to think of himself as a ‘big man’..and a girl whom he likes who randomly helps him take care of the dog..but might be linked to more…and an arm with a watch..oh and throw in a bit of Chechen syndicate who ‘the drops’ are for…and lastly..you find out the man with the dog has much more to him than meets the eye and is much darker than you thought.

But let’s start with this…

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Tom Hardy is a man of many accents..this we have learned and Hollywood’s most recent ‘it/go to’ guy does not disappoint with his interpretation of this Brooklyn/Crooklyn accent either.  As the screen rolls up you hear a voice that sorta sounds like Christopher Walken just rolled in after gargling with a shot of whiskey..and lo and behold, It’s a very believable Tom Hardy as “Bob Saginowski” in this quite mesmerizing performance as a somewhat shy, but yet charming bartender at what used to be his Cousin Marv’s (James Gandolfini) local neighborhood dive bar aptly named ‘Cousin Marvs’ which is now owned by the Chechen syndicate lead by “Chovka” (Michael Aronov) and used, when designated to do so, as the ‘drop’ bar, a place where all the nights drop payments to this syndicate are made and then picked up. Basically when it’s your night, envelopes stuffed with cash get dropped off into a time-released safe which is then picked up at the specified hour by a designated main guy. Simple enough riiiiggghhtt.except Marv, in Gandolfini’s last spin in a role that was clearly made for him, has decided he wants to go back to his glory days of being respected and plans to heist his own ‘drop’ day, tries to pull off a practice heist with 2 local guys, “Fitz” (James Frecheville) & “Rardy” (Michael Esper) which doesn’t go over well with all involved.

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Now you must be wondering where the dog fits in..well oddly enough, this movie is actually based on the short story “Animal Rescue” by Dennis Lehane in which a tough, but sweetheart of a guy, with a rather dark past, finds a badly beaten pit bull puppy in a trash can and it gets him into some big trouble.. As with that story, in this one Bob finds said dog in “Nadia” (Noomi Rapace) garbage can & she randomly offers to help him take care of it.  I won’t lie..there are some wonderfully cute scenes with Hardy & the little doggie Rocco..he’s a little scene stealer that Rocco!!! 😀  But turns out Nadia also has a bit of a history..with “Eric Deeds” (Matthias Schoenaerts) who is not only a complete psycho-path, but also the a-hole who beat little Rocco and left him for dead, yet stalks Bob with much malice to try to get the dog back insofar as even threatening Nadia’s life.  Eric has a reputation behind him, and now Marv is going to use him for the big cache heist day.  The whole time everything is going on, we see Bob attending 8am mass everyday at the local Catholic church, which we figure out later just why, but where he has the attention of the very police detective investigating not only a past neighborhood murder from years earlier,  but the recent robbery at the bar. “Detective Torres” (John Ortiz) just knows somethings fishy with the whole scene there at the bar, most especially focusing on Bob whose unassuming ways almost had me thinking at one point he might be a bit daft as in not-so-bright, but that’s really just all part of the charm of Hardy in this role..because even though you might think it for a moment or two, it’s because he wants you to.

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This gutsy, gritty & sometimes funny film ends with a plot twist that I don’t think most will see. but it definitely answers all your questions. I mean I had an idea of what it was, but it was so well thought out and done that I was really never sure which way it was going to go until it actually happened.  Again, Hardy is just simply wonderful in this role along with Gandolfini, they make a great dark comedy team which sadly we will never have the chance be able to see again. (Peace be with you James Gandolfini, you will always be remembered with your great body of work)  Noomi Rapace is good, and I enjoy her a lot in most films she’s done, but honestly she is out-played here by pretty much everyone and the character is a one that the if it was left out of the film entirely, you wouldn’t have even missed it.  A big huge kudos from me also goes to Matthias Schoenaerts. This Belgium actor deserves a big nod for playing his role so well and holding his own in such good company, hope to see much more of him in upcoming films.

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My vote is that you see this movie even if it’s not your cup of tea, for the performances alone.

Grade:  B-   (squeaks in at above average)

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Grading Scale: A = Oscar-worthy   B =  Above average-must see  C = Average – should see  D = Don’t waste your time or money  F =  Don’t see the movie     (+ or –  gives the movie an edge up or down)