Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Movie Review: ‘Bring Him To Me’ Drifts in Circles

Director: Luke Sparke
Writer: Tom Evans
Stars: Barry Pepper, Jamie Costa, Sam Neill

Synopsis: Under orders from a ruthless crime boss, a getaway driver must battle his conscience and drive an unsuspecting crew member to an ambush execution. There is a long drive ahead.

The Australian crime thriller Bring Him To Me is one of those frustrating film experiences because it has all the makings of a good genre film. For one, Barry Pepper is an underrated actor who can bring enough grit and complexity to any role to make it interesting. The premise takes the viewer on a mystery that’s a long and winding road. However, the action scenes are stagnant, and a handful of supporting performances range from weak to over-the-top, and that does not even mention the head-scratching plot points and character decisions.

Tom Evans’s script follows Pepper’s character, “Driver,” a shadowy mob figure always sitting in the car while running, waiting for his team to be their getaway. The film alternates between two narratives—one is in the present day. Driver gets a message to bring an associate in for a meeting; that character is known as “Passenger” (played by Jamie Costa), and Driver is immediately worried.

That’s because his boss, Veronica (Rachel Griffiths, doing her best Jackie Weaver impression), puts a premium on punctuality. He also finds it strange to call everyone in at the last minute. However, when Veronica goes over their previous score, it is light. The implication is that Passenger is the one behind the missing money, and Driver knows the end game if he delivers the young man to the murderous mobster. In fact, his overreactions to the most straightforward questions and roadblocks are questionable, which makes the screenplay rather obvious.

That’s where Bring Him To Me should thrive, but rather, it meanders with action sequences and plot points that fail to camouflage the central mystery. The main character is a contradictory one. If he doesn’t care about his criminal peer and knows the rules of the game, why is he so anxious about delivering him to his boss? Why would he be putting himself in danger over someone dumb enough to steal from a prominent member of the criminal underworld? And why does the Passenger seem oblivious and nonchalant during the trip?

Director Luke Sparke (Red Billabong) needs to address these issues adequately. Bring Him To Me feels like a short film with bloated filler to create a feature film. I would equate this to a clause where you take out the middle section, but it wouldn’t affect the beginning or end. In between, you have a few listless car chase scenes that occur for the primary purpose of killing time. That involves a second local mobster, Frank (Sam Neill), and his son. The scene is laughable, with them being notified and chasing down the duo in a short time frame when the script noted how far their destination was to begin with.

Frank believes anything his intended targets have to say as he holds them at gunpoint. This is just an excuse for Pepper and Costa’s characters to create an opening that would typically never be available to them. To that point, Griffith’s Veronica lets one of her henchmen, whom she knows is guilty, go, which leads to another eye-rolling action scene driving around a parking lot when they could have just been taken right then and there by a half dozen armed men. Not to mention, she let them take the money. Oh, and why is one of the men walking around with no injuries from gunshot wounds from the robbery days later?

All of this could be a bit of B-movie bliss, but instead, Bring Him To Me has higher aspirations it simply cannot reach. Costa is too lightweight an actor to play a character with the needed depth and complexity to accomplish those desired heights. The villains are so underwritten that it forces Griffiths and Neill to play their roles as exaggerated cartoon figures because they are rather one-note. The only person who comes away clean is Pepper, who keeps the movie mildly engaging because of his strong presence and emotional range.

If you have seen enough crime thrillers, Bring Him To Me is the film equivalent of a road trip that goes nowhere but ends up where it started. 

Grade: D

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