Movie Review: ‘Felony’ Is An Enthralling Film From The Very Beginning

Mal Toohey (Joel Edgerton) is a hard working detective who just attained hero status for his role in a successful raid. The celebration of a job well done leads to a night of heavy drinking and an ill-advised drunk drive home. On the way, after using his position in the department to avoid a police checkpoint, Mal accidentally clips a child riding his bike with the sideview mirror of his car. He calls the incident in, but denies responsibility. Carl Summer (Tom Wilkinson), an old school detective and long time police officer, and his newbie partner Jim Melic (Jai Courtney) are the first to arrive on the scene. Carl recognizes Mal and sends his young partner off so that he can advise Mal to make-up a story to avoid being charged with a hit and run, which would likely damage his career and the police department. Jim sees through the obvious fabrication and seeks to expose the truth. Three cops, each with their own agenda, begin a tense battle to protect their interests and the truth.

‘Felony’ is an enthralling film from the get go. It features an intricate and well-designed plot that showcases the complex inner mechanics of the Australian police force. The competition between the three police officers in the film illustrates well some of the different dynamics that can exist in such an institutionalized environment. There is the hero detective who has just hit possibly the highest point in his career only to see one stupid mistake put it in jeopardy, leading him to do whatever he can to preserve his career. Then there is the older statesman detective that will do anything to protect the integrity of the police force with little concern for the law or other officers. Finally, there is the up and coming officer that is driven more by ideals and personal morals than devotion to the institution he serves. It is amazing the amount of drama that this film achieves just by pitting these different interests against each other.

The acting in ‘Felony’ is top notch and the great performances add depth to an already rich plot. This is the kind of dramatic thriller where tension is created just by a quick glance or tinge of facial recognition. A fantastic score also works well to build the right atmosphere throughout.

The movie has a stylishness to it that gives it an interesting and often morally foreboding feel. The characters are forced to face complex moral quandaries, and their varying personal philosophies lead to very different results. These choices often clash with each other and with those the film’s audience would likely assume. This film makes it difficult to consistently pick a side. In one scene a character comes off as relatable and sympathetic. By the next they seem callous or flawed.

‘Felony’ is a solid dramatic thriller. Perhaps the only thing that will keep some from really liking it is its strong focus on the psychological. There is action in the movie, but for the most part it lives and dies by examining the motivations and intricacies of being a police officer in Australia.

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