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|REVIEW OF GETTIN' SQUARE:
21.08.2004 Reviewed by PETER CALDER (Herald rating * *)
"Getting square" is Australian criminal slang for "going straight", but as the last line in this long and occasionally coherent comedy thriller makes clear, it can also mean "getting even".
A few of the movie's characters - the ones we like, who are newly out of prison when the movie opens - want to focus on the first meaning, but when circumstances conspire against them they decide to try a bit of the second.
The result is a fitfully funny though extraordinarily convoluted crime caper flick - a sunlit and slightly gormless Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
Its two ex-cons are the luckless Johnny "Spit" Spitieri (Wenham) and the determined Barry Worth (Worthington), whose attempts at getting square are frustrated by a Gold Coast gangster (Sweet) and a crooked cop (David Field).
A subplot which takes an awful long time to intersect with the main story involves an English crook (Spall, who has some choice lines, including: "That's my dough - I pinched it") and his troubles with the serious fraud office.
The film is penned by high-profile Queensland criminal lawyer Chris Nyst, the man who successfully appealed against Pauline Hanson's electoral fraud conviction and whose background ensures he knew what to put in.
But he doesn't know enough about what to leave out and as a result it's crammed with incidents, and punishes the slightest lapse in attention. There's action to burn and quite how much you enjoy it will depend on the extent to which armed robbery and money-laundering tickle your funnybone.
It certainly has its hilarious elements, although some from a Greek lawyer called Con seem cobbled together from the leftovers of other endeavours, and many of the better comic ideas are stretched way beyond their serviceable length.
But Wenham's Spit, which earned awards honours in a year dominated by Japanese Story, is a show-stealing sensation.
Resplendent in mullet, polyester shirt, shin-length tight jeans and jandals, he peers through drug-heavy lids set in a pimply face and whines his way through some of the funniest lines in recent memory.
In The Bank and The Boys, Wenham has shown he's a dramatic actor of class and in Getting Square here he demonstrates he's a gifted comedian as well. His performance alone is worth the admission price to an otherwise undistinguished film.
CAST: Sam Worthington, David Wenham, Timothy Spall, Gary Sweet
DIRECTOR: Jonathan Teplitzky
RUNNING TIME: 102 mins
RATING: M (violence, offensive language, sex scenes).
SCREENING: Hoyts, Village Queen St