Tuesday, October 21, 2014

"Felony", an Aussie thriller, is a Shakespearian moral tragedy and lesson in bike safety

The new Australian film “Felony” by Matthew Saville is like a Shakespearian triple tragedy (maybe it does follow one of the plays), as moral corruption finally undoes not just one but three Sydney police officers.  The film was produced in part with Roadshow Pictures, that is Village Roadshow, which usually works with Warner Brothers for films shot in the US.  The film is comparable to “The Judge” (Oct. 16) and I think more intense.
After taking a bullet in his vest and narrowly escaping serious wounding, police officer Malcolm Toohey (Joel Edgerton, who also wrote the screenplay) has a few beers and even talks his way past a DUI checkpoint.  (I’ve encountered only one of these in the past five years or so, on a Friday night on Lee Highway in Merrifield VA.)   But as he drives down a lightly traveled street (and in Australia they drive on the left, like in Britain) he meets a kid (Alex Haddad) on a bicycle going against traffic (wrong way) and feels a bump against his left side view mirror.  He looks behind and sees the kid down.

As a purely bicycle safety issue, it’s important to remember that auto side view mirrors have gotten bigger and could strike cyclists.  The kid was also going the wrong way, which increases risk of not being seen in time.  Malcolm stops and calls in the accident but, in the time before the cops and ambulance arrives, straightens his side view mirror and starts to cover up the wreck.
Soon his boss Carl Summer (Tom Wilkinson, from “In the Bedroom”) joins him in rationalizing the cover-up.  Dr. Phil would have a field day analyzing this (and I except him and his son to see this film).  Malcolm has to field questions like, "How does it feel to be a hailed a hero?"  But the youngster in the group, Jim Melic (Jai Courtney) starts noticing troubling inconsistencies in the story and the prods Carl to take the crash seriously.  The boy is in a coma, and will either die or become a vegetable.  Jim starts to have a relationship (platonic) with the boy’s mother.  But the character is interesting. Jim, with his short-cropped perfect hair, and EDS suit, form-fitted to a wrestler’s body, is made to look like the perfect man, a James Bond or Clark Kent type.
He keeps his suit on while doing a lot of hacking and gumshoeing on the computer to investigate the accident on his own.  Once in a while, his collar is left open at the neck, to reveal thick chest hair.  His “images” on Google are not always as perfect, and that’s the price of making a living as an actor.
It’s a bit of a spoiler to explain how Jim and Carl get taken down.  More medical tragedy follows, and probably prison time for maybe all three.  

Had the officer not covered up the hit, I’m not sure what would have happened in court.  Involuntary manslaughter or negligent homicide?  Well, the boy was going the wrong way and may have accidentally veered too close himself.  The boy might be at fault.  That’s a good question for auto insurance claims adjusters who may see this movie.  When driving, the law in most states says you must stay three feet away from cyclists (if passing them in the same lane) to avoid this kind of tragedy, but the cyclist could suddenly lunge.  I like the idea of dedicated bicycle lanes, and I think that cyclists should obey the same laws as cars, including honoring traffic lights and stop signs.  It’s dangerous to have to pass the same cyclist more than once because he ran lights.  Cyclists should also be expected to stop in situations where it would be difficult for drivers to see them (as when they right-turn across bike lanes).  The biggest objection to wrong-way cycling is side-street turners won’t see them in time.  I’ve had a couple or narrow “wrong way” misses myself, at least one with a kid I know and who is normally very responsible, and in college now. 

The Facebook site is here  (Benaroya, Village Roadshow Pictures, and Gravitas Ventures). I labeled this as "courtroom drama" to link it with the "Judge" movie;  the story should have wound up in court and probably will after the fact. I would give it at least four stars out of five.  It will be in the Oscar race. The brooding music score by Bryony Marks is impressive. 

On bicycle-driver safety, there's one other idea to remember, "dooring".  Read this bike safety guide
The film is available on Amazon instant play and at the West End Cinema in Washington DC. 

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