Combustible Celluloid
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With: Ewan McGregor, Brenton Thwaites, Alicia Vikander, Jacek Koman, Matt Nable, Tom Budge, Nash Edgerton
Written by: Julius Avery, John Collee
Directed by: Julius Avery
MPAA Rating: R for violence, language throughout, some sexuality, nudity and drug use
Running Time: 108
Date: 01/16/2015

Son of a Gun (2015)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Kid Tough

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

After making some prizewinning short films, Australian filmmaker Julius Avery based his first feature film, Son of a Gun, loosely on his own troubled life. The result is fairly conventional, employing all of the usual chestnuts of the gangster genre. The relationships between the three main characters, for example, goes all the way back to Gilda (1946) and has been done many times since. But the movie is tough and vivid, and it's perfectly enjoyable in the moment.

Nineteen year-old J.R. (Brenton Thwaites) is sent to prison for six months for a small crime. While inside, he catches the attention of notorious Australian gangster Brendan Lynch (Ewan McGregor) when he attempts to defend his meek cellmate. Brendan protects J.R. from a deadly gang of prisoners, and subsequently, J.R. becomes part of Brendan's gang, and, when he gets out, a crucial part of a jailbreak. Living the high life, he meets the gangster's moll Tasha (Alicia Vikander), and unwisely falls in love. Then, a gold heist fails to go as planned, and J.R.'s entire world begins to come crashing down.

Part of the movie's freshness comes from its Australian setting, which adds a bit of grit where fedoras used to be. Ewan McGregor is totally committed to his role, mixing both a threatening vehemence and a kindly sympathy that makes him fascinating, someone to look up to. Brenton Thwaites seems a bit too pretty for his role — he's given a facial scar to make him look tougher — but he manages the untested innocence that the role requires.

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