Oh, what a man won’t do for the right woman! Or should that properly be phrased as, “Oh, what a man won’t do should the right woman ask … the right way!” Similar sultry desires have been at the heart of, literally, hundreds if not thousands of great thrillers (not to mention just plain good ones), and I suppose that dates back to the original Adam & Eve story. (Methinks it was Eve who tempted Adam with an apple, no?) With sex and skin already influencing the male brain, throwing money into the equation ends up being like spraying kerosene into an already blazing inferno. You know you’re about to get burned, but you can’t think straight long enough to do otherwise.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
Colin (played by David Lyons) is driving across the country for a job interview when he becomes the witness to a fatal automobile accident. Trying to be the good Samaritan, he offers the inconvenienced female – Jina (Emma Booth) – a ride into town, and while checking to make certain the other driver has been killed he discovers a suitcase full of money in the back. As it turns out, Jina is the wife of the town’s sheriff, Frank (the increasingly reliable Jason Clarke) … only Frank keeps law and order the old-fashioned way: he beats the hell out of anyone he feels needs it. As Jina’s allegedly been straying with other men around town, it doesn’t take long for Frank to turn those suspicions on Colin, setting in motion a deadly game of chess between the three of them and the forces bent on getting their money back!
Lean and stylish, SWERVE is the kind of picture that regularly rents out from the local video store. It has a lot going for it – hot-looking leads, hints of sexual themes, and simmering violence. Sadly, it has an awful lot going against it, too, but most of the quirks only come to the surface if you’re watching closely.
Frank certainly doesn’t fit the bill for what a small-town sheriff would normally be, but this is Australia so maybe their selection process is a bit different than what we have in the United States. He’s obviously a brute: he suspects everyone of practically anything – he has a reputation locally for being a bully – and, at home, he takes what he wants from Jina equally as rough and tumble. Adding further confusion to the plot, Colin seems to represent the fresh-faced do-gooder – he’s quick to stop and offer help, even quicker to do the right thing without thinking about it – but he does act modestly interested in Jina’s affections as they’re directed toward him. Still, Lyons plays the man as though he has something to hide, and that subtext offers only more questions as he starts making less-than-decorous decisions.
Booth is a modest bit of a revelation here. She oozes a kind of big city seductiveness while flashing her doe-eyes of desperation over being stuck in some small Australian town; but her intensity is lacking the level of conviction needed to make all of this come together successfully. (Think Jessica Lange’s unsatisfied waitress in THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE but without all of the obvious hunger.) Clearly she’s meant to be the femme fatale behind so much of what’s gone on before – there are hints of her duplicitous nature, so much so that it became impossible to tell when (or even if) she was telling the truth. I suspect even the actress didn’t know, and that’s gotta be tough to work with on any creative level.
Unfortunately, this may once again be a case wherein the director shouldn’t have directed his own script. The guy who did both – Craig Lahiff – probably knows more answers than he served up here. I say that largely because he dishes up a widely unclear conclusion – one that defies even the most conventional explanation – that kinda/sorta implicates our leading man. Either that, or it’s horrifically sloppy writing for the 85 minutes that came before it, which I’d hate to think was the case.
Plus … what’s with all of the marching bands? Was that supposed to mean something, or does Mr. Lahiff merely have a fondness for them?
SWERVE (2011) is produced by Duo Art Productions. DVD distribution is being handled by the Cohen Media Group. As for the technical specification, this is one smartly assembled flick with some very high quality sights and sounds. Lastly, if it’s special features you want, there are a handful of promotional interviews with the main players, along with the theatrical trailer.
(MILDLY) RECOMMENDED. For a one-time viewing, I suppose there’s nothing all that wrong with spending 90 minutes wrapped up in SWERVE’s twists and turns. The problem is if you look too closely then you either see the turns coming or far too many bits and pieces of it makes so very little coherent sense. Methinks writer/director Lahiff tried too hard to make this work in the camera as opposed to on the page, or else something got lost in the translation from his head to his edits.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Cohen Media Group provided me with a DVD copy of SWERVE by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.