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THE HARD WORD ***

CAST: Guy Pearce, Rachel Griffiths, Robert Taylor, Joel Edgerton, Damien Richardson, Rhondda Findleton, Kate Atkinson, Vince Colosimo, Paul Sonkkila, Jim Gyngell, Dorian Nkono

DIRECTOR: Scott Roberts


Three masterful Australian robbers who always work together—perhaps because they are brothers—are serving time in an astonishingly loose Sydney prison. Periodically, the boys—Dale, Mal and Shane-- are granted a brief leave, a period during which they deftly pull off a brilliant, remarkably non-violent heist with the help of their attorney and a couple of crooked cops. By the time of their permanent release, they expect to have a sizable nest egg waiting for them. The only cause for concern the Twentyman brothers have is that their lawyer may not be on the level and may even be having an affair with Dale’s wife, a blowtorch blonde with a cash register where her heart should be.

Eventually, the Twentyman trio is tricked into participating in a heist far from their home turf, a job that turns extraordinarily risky and uncharacteristically bloody. But somehow you know these spunky, resourceful lads will triumph in the end, and they’ll do it without the help of their scumbag lawyer. Maybe Dale's slippery spouse will be of some help and maybe she won’t.

That’s practically all there is to this darkly comic thriller, yet I didn’t feel cheated. Except for a bit of flab in the last quarter, the story, written by first-time director Scott Roberts, moves swiftly along, alternately amusing and unnerving us. Most surprising of all, we are made to root for the crazily appealing Twentymans, partly because they are closet pacifists who never had a decent break and partly because they are played by a trio of gifted actors: Guy Pearce (Dale), tough, lean, bearded and smart--except when it comes to women; Damien Richardson (Mal), a sweet-natured prison butcher whose stomach-turning specialty is blood sausage; and, best of all, Joel Edgerton, a volatile, muscular blond (reminiscent of early Patrick Swayze) who remembers his Mama and her girlfriend in a disturbingly erotic way. Even the baddies here—Rachel Griffiths as Dale’s wife and Robert Taylor as his lawyer—are awfully good.

If you’re looking for a tense, terrific time—and not something of socially redeeming value—you’ll find it in "The Hard Word."