Son of a Gun review: Ewan McGregor generates some Heat

A skilfully staged Aussie crime drama where men growl at other men and women stay largely out of the way

The brave attempt by PT Anderson to film Thomas Pynchon's novel 'Inherent Vice'. And the film equivalent of a tasting menu, 'Son Of A Gun', plus Disney's 'Frozen' follow-up, 'Big Hero 6'. Video: Niamh Guckian

Film Title: Son of a Gun

Director: Julius Avery

Starring: Brenton Thwaites, Ewan McGregor, Alicia Vikander, Jacek Koman, Matt Nable, Tom Budge

Genre: Crime

Running Time: 109 min

Fri, Jan 30, 2015, 10:27

   

Whatever you might say about Alicia Vikander, you wouldn’t suggest she lacked versatility. Over the last month, we’ve seen the Swedish actor as a posh English lady in Testament of Youth, a robot in Ex Machina and, now, as a Russian moll in this serviceable Australian crime drama.

Vikander doesn’t have much to do – she’s the misused waitress rescued by the good thief – but she does it to the best of her considerable abilities. Son of a Gun is that sort of film. It sets modest ambitions and goes on to meet them comfortably.

What we have here is yet another variation on Michael Mann’s Heat. We get the heist carried out to throbbing electronics. We get the unstable crewmember who endangers the entire project. Men growl at other men and women stay largely out of the way.

 

Oh well. If we must have Heat rip-offs (and we must), let them be carried off with such rough-hewn energy. Ewan McGregor plays Brendan Lynch, a hardened convict who, partly for selfish reasons, steps in to protect a new inmate from the attentions of archetypal sex-starved thugs.

Young JR (Brenton Thwaites), who shares an interest in chess with Lynch, agrees to help his mentor out when he leaves prison. This involves (call The Wolfe Tones!) organising a prison break by helicopter and, later, assisting in attempts to rob a remote gold mine. Heat addicts will have already guessed that sub-machine guns are unloosed.

Son of a Gun (awful title by the way) is a tad short on characterisation. We are never entirely clear whether Lynch – who has an Irish passport, but speaks with McGregor’s Scottish accent – really does have a heart of gold beneath his malign exterior. JR alternates between hopeless naïf and cunning wunderkind. Vikander has barely a wisp of fictional personality to exploit.

Still, the action is skilfully staged, there is a rough fug to the cinematography, and the double crosses are cunningly finessed.

We’ve heard worse cover versions.