Australian thriller that borrows a little too heavily from the Coen brothers
Bucking the recent trend in Australian thrillers and chillers for grittily and gratuitously realistic lurid documentary-style dramas based on real events (see Wolf Creek et al), Crawl is a pointedly cinematic and resolutely fictional old school suspenser. First time writer-director Paul China has name-checked the Coen brothers, Scorsese and Hitchcock among his influences and their presence, particularly Joel and Ethan’s, is very much in evidence throughout this slow-burning modern noir, the plot of which turns on a series of unfortunate mistakes and bad coincidences.
A sleazy small town bar owner (Paul Holmes) hires a Croatian hitman (George Shevtsov) to kill a local garage owner after a business deal goes bad. The nameless killer completes his task, collects his pay, sets up his former employer to take the fall for the murder and absconds from town. The Croatian hasn’t got far, however, when an accident on the highway strands him in a remote house, the sole occupant of which is a young woman (Georgina Haig) who happens to work in the aforementioned bar and whose fiancée was fatally involved in the accident. Thereafter, things get even messier.
It’s one thing to pay homage to your favourite filmmakers; it’s another to rip them off. If there’s a fine line between the two, China has stepped well and truly over it. The opening scene, in which the hitman confronts his victim, is lifted straight out of No Country for Old Men (sans the peanuts). Thereafter, Crawl sticks pretty closely to the Coens’ debut, Blood Simple. For good (or bad) measure, China also throws in a bit of Hitch and a bit of Kubrick, but these jarring homages are ill-executed and out of place. The best thing about Crawl is Shevtsov, a little known Aussie actor worth tracking down in the Priscilla-era black comedy Love Serenade. Sadly, even his wonderfully laconic presence is no saving grace.
Limited release from Fri 22 Feb.