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 “HACKSAW RIDGE” (2016) Lionsgate

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Let’s start off by acknowleding that “HACKSAW RIDGE” is not for the faint of heart. It’s incredibly violent in its war scenes as it tells the story of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), an Army medic that refused to carry a weapon as not a ‘conscientious objector’ but as a ‘conscientious participator.’ This, until now, untold story of Doss, is one that will stick with you long after the film is over.
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Of course you wonder going in can Mel Gibson redeem himself after so much has been made of his lack of judgment, drunken rants, and his anti-semitic rhetoric and in essence, being blackballed these last 10 yrs. as yes, though he is perfectly capable of doing so, it’s a long climb up.

Turns out it would be hard not to do with this story. The film starts in the sober times of WWII around 1944, Desmond Doss, the son of Tom Doss (Hugo Weaving), an alcoholic Army man who served in World War I and is suffering from what we now know is PTSD. Doss & his family, while patriots, are also devout Seventh-Day Adventist’s. His brother, Harold Doss (Nathaniel Buzolic) joins the Army leading Desmond to join also, against their father’s wishes, in the fight against Japanese in some of the final battles of WWII.
Doss is in love with Dorothy Schutte (Teresa Palmer, a nurse’s aide who is scared that she’ll never see him again, especially after the persecution he is sure to face when he refuses to touch a gun in training camp and is facing being court marshaled for this refusal by his commanding officers, Sergeant Howell (Vince Vaughn) & Captain Glover (Sam Worthington).
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From there we move onto who Doss actually becomes as he proceeds during the stand-off at ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ to show his true being and save as many lives as he possibly can while dodging bullets and hand grenades, all without a gun. There are moments you want to scream at him “Just pick the damn thing up” whereas at other you are with him 100% for not doing so. Not being religious myself, it would be hard not to realize both sides have their points which anyone, whether religious or not, can understand and decide on their own.

My only and very few beefs were: The beginning had a lot of fluff & cheesy-ness to it. Second: While I realize Mel is an Aussie, but to put so many Aussie & Brits as leads in a southern film trying to do southern accents, just doesn’t always quite go up to par and here was the same. As decent as most of the acting is, it’s still very detectable that they don’t have the accents down pat. We also at one point, lose the brother. He literally get’s up from dinner, and we never see him again, nor do we know what happened. Lastly, the supporting cast is truly amazing here and bring so much to this film, although the age-range of the actors might have been off some. They were starting off at playing young 19-22 yr. old’s and frankly almost all look quite a bit off that range including Garfield himself.
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As for the rest, truly I must say I don’t think anyone does battle scenes as well as Mel Gibson does. Again, It’s extremely violent and graphic as well, real war actually can be. I had to turn away a few times, but the story Gibson puts up there of all of the terribleness of war is just so well done. I was brought to tears when they quoted “During peacetime, sons bury their fathers, during war, fathers bury their sons.” It got me.

Conclusion: Many will walk into this film wanting to dislike just because of Gibson, most of them will walk out knowing they just saw a really good film.

Grade: B-
@pegsatthemovies

Review Screening: Wednesday, October 26, 2016 ~ Courtesy of LAFTV Meetup Group
Nationwide Release: Friday, November 4, 2016