Felony manages to avoid becoming a simple Australian police drama, despite its muted procedural nature. The film’s interest curve is near-solely based on outstanding performance and masterful direction but that’s not really a bad thing. Saville implants a, potentially dull, story of cover-up and guilt with grace and edge keeping the bare plot and character as interesting as it possibly can. Minute details and moments of
realisation become grand and operatic as the camera slows down and the music swamps scenes of questionable morality. Saville’s partner and long-time composer Bryony Marks supplies a bittersweet score that does far too much of the film’s work for it. The stunning collection of
sweeping orchestral movements in such an intimate portrayal helps pull everything into place and actualise many of the most powerful scenes in the feature.
The three actors at the centre of Felony are fantastic, building their stock characters into a more believable trio of complex individuals. Tom Wilkinson is a pleasure to watch as usual, Joel Edgerton keeps the film together with an understated sensitivity, and Jai Courtney falters against the other two as a ambitious young newcomer. Together the three form a bizarre timeline of corruption, one that could be seen as belonging to the one man: Courtney is young ambition and justice, Edgerton is middle-aged disillusionment, and Wilkinson steps it up as corruption hand-in-hand with experience. It’s an interesting way to look at the characters and understand why they operate the way they do.
Edgerton, no matter how low-key the script is, has a clear and often angered message. The film carves into the Australian police department, and contemporary law enforcement at large, to expose it as an institute complicit in the crimes of its own. Felony paints a portrait where there’s no such thing as evil, just ignorance and that’s probably what makes it a scenario you can invest in.
Wonderfully filmed and scored, Felony is an immensely heartfelt examination of, not just the law, but the essence of guilt and redemption. Although his writing is arguably a bit minimalist, Edgerton’s performance is unquestionably impressive alongside Wilkinson’s support and Saville’s direction.
Dir: Mathew Saville
Stars: Jai Courtney, Tom Wilkinson, Joel Edgerton, Jack O’Rourke,