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1 item from 2003

Gettin' Square

28 October 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »


Thursday, Oct. 9


SYDNEY -- "Gettin' Square" represents a big jump for filmmaker Jonathan Teplitzky. His first film was the low-key, quietly effective "Better Than Sex", starring Susie Porter and David Wenham, which showcased a director adept at building character and mixing laughs into drama. Both talents are on display in "Gettin' Square", but they're played out on a much bigger canvas.

A tricky, snaking debut screenplay by criminal lawyer/crime fiction author Chris Nyst introduces a big crew of colorful characters just as Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction" and Guy Ritchie's "Snatch" did. While Teplitzky doesn't exhibit the same trailblazing flair as those two hipster icons, he does put his own stamp on the film, serving up its dark, noir-inflected themes with gloriously bright, sparkling cinematography. Queensland's glitzy, emotionally hollow Gold Coast almost becomes another character in the film, trapping the other players with its criminal allure.

Barry Wirth (Sam Worthington) is a young crook with a good heart. He's just out of prison and desperately trying to keep his nose clean on the slightly sleazy Gold Coast. But wherever Wirth turns, his old life snaps back to bite him.

A straight job at a "clean" restaurant turns out to be slightly bent: The owner is Barrington (Mike Leigh regular Timothy Spall), an expatriate Englishman who hides a criminal past. Meanwhile, a tough mobster in a sharkskin suit (Gary Sweet) wants to pull Wirth back into the life, while the corrupt cop (David Field) who put him away will never let him forget who he is.

But the biggest thorn in Wirth's side is Johnny "Spit" Spitieri (Wenham), a prison buddy who wants to get clean too but is sidelined by heroin and a distinct lack of brainpower. Even with a supportive social worker (Freya Stafford) on his side, going straight is a very tricky business for Wirth.

Teplitzky loses his footing a bit with the wildly convoluted plot. When the film sticks with the characters, it's a rugged delight. When Wirth gets involved with a dangerous heist (which bookends the film to put a nonlinear spin on things), the director has trouble keeping up with the twisting machinations of his own film. The plot convolutions take on a life of their own, and you'll have to hang on tight to wade through the labyrinthine narrative twists.

The characters and performances are where "Gettin' Square" really thrives. Worthington and Stafford ground the film with winning charm by playing it straight and letting the supporting players indulge in theatrics. Sweet and Field mix malice and dark humor as the bad guys, while Spall gives his character a real sense of warmth and bittersweet regret.

But it's Wenham who owns the film. His comic timing is right on the money (a couple of scenes seem solely devised to show off his physical comedy skills), making the hopeless junkie much more than just a caricature.

Slick and effortlessly stylish, "Gettin' Square" scores with its salty mix of street comedy and criminal high jinks, and showcases a rogue's gallery of colorful performances.


Macquarie Nine Film and Television Investment & Working Title present in association with Film Finance Corporation Australia a Mushroom Pictures and WTA production in association with Freshwater Pictures


Director: Jonathan Teplitzky

Screenwriter: Chris Nyst

Producers: Martin Fabinyi, Tim White, Trish Lake

Executive producers: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Michael Gudinski, Kris Noble

Co-producer: Chris Nyst

Director of photography: Garry Phillips

Editor: Ken Sallows

Production designer: Nicholas McCallum

Costume designer: Jackline Sassine

Music: Machine Gun Fellatio


Barry Wirth: Sam Worthington

Johnny Spitieri: David Wenham

Darren Barrington: Timothy Spall

Chicka Martin: Gary Sweet

Annie Flynn: Freya Stafford

Arnie De Viers: David Field

Craig "Crusher" Knob: Richard Carter

Running time -- 100 minutes

No MPAA rating »

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1 item from 2003

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