THE MULE | MOVIE REVIEW

THE MULE is a new Australian movie, a dark comedy drug movie that Kernel Andrew reviews below. I wanted to talk about its uniqueness in distribution techniques. The makers of the film literally decided against a cinema release for the movie and released it this Friday just been, the 21st November, direct to iTunes worldwide sales, then, literally two weeks later, December 3rd, it is releasing on Blu Ray and DVD. They were not happy with the state of distribution and have skipped home entertainment waits, post cinema, and have made something readily available to the world. It is a first for Australia and it is in no way because of the quality of the movie. They will probably make more money from this – look at THE BABADOOK, a sublime work of genius, but because it was an Australian movie cinemas wouldn’t take it, it got 13 screens around the country and made just $256k in its entire Australian run, in the UK it made $633k in its opening weekend and $1.1MIL in France – I believe it opens this week in the U.S. and I am anticipating good things from there as well. I wish THE MULE all the success it can get from this new model of distribution, it should be noted that since Friday it is already #1 on the Indie iTunes charts – huge gratz! I have to brag, I am off to a special screening in a cinema for it tomorrow night, and after Andrew’s review am very much looking forward to it. THE BABADOOK is a eOneANZ release, it is available now on iTunes and is rated MA15+. All the best…..JK.

 

THE MULE MOVIE POSTER IMAGE
THE MULE | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | MOVIE POSTER

 

REVIEW BY ANDREW BRUSENTSEV

THE MULE is a new low-fi Australian crime black comedy with just the right amount of crime thriller elements to make it both suspenseful as well as tense. It’s directed by Tony Mahony as well as Angus Sampson. Sampson should not be a stranger to anybody familiar with the Australian comedy scene on either TV or film. This is his first foray away from a straight comic “gig” into much darker territory.  He also was involved quite heavily in the production aspects penning the script along with Jamie Browne and Leigh Whannell.

The film is set in Melbourne in 1983 and here we meet Ray Jenkins (Angus Sampson). Ray is a pretty simple guy. He works as a television repairman and is pretty active in the local AFL team. He is quiet and still lives with his mother and stepfather (Noni Hazelhurst and Geoff Morrell) but his life is really going nowhere very quickly. People like Ray but he is always the guy standing in the back, he’s a mate but not the centre of attention.

 

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THE MULE | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | CROFT (HUGO WEAVING)

 

Not much is happening in Ray’s life and the situation for his parents seems pretty desperate as well. His stepdad has very large gambling debts to pay back to a ruthless local standover man and drug dealer Pat (played deliciously by John Noble). Ray sees all of this and one night when his teammate Gavin (Leigh Whannell) suggests bringing back heroin (at the behest of Pat) with them from the footie team’s end of year trip to Thailand he reluctantly agrees. The trip is pretty uneventful and everything goes pretty smoothly. Once he arrives back at Melbourne airport, the trouble starts. Ray is a nervous mess walking through customs and this leads to his incarceration in a nearby hotel. The reason? The police are pretty sure that he has condoms full of heroin in his stomach. Ray is no fool though. He refuses an X-ray and also claims he’s allergic to laxatives. It’s up to Paris (Ewan Leslie) and Croft (Hugo Weaving) our Federal Police to wait it out and till Ray empties his stomach.

Much of the “action” is set in the hotel and this movie seems like a one note riff on poo but really it is a bit deeper than that. The series of events that Ray’s detainment triggers spirals into the lives of all around him. As Ray struggles not to go to the toilet Pat learns about Ray’s fate and the fact that Gavin bought more heroin than was required. Pat is not the type to go down easily. He calls for the most violent remedies to the situation and dispatches his goons for both Ray and Gavin.

 

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THE MULE | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | PAT SHEPHERD (JOHN NOBLE)

 

It was only about half way through the proceedings that I realised that Sampson and Whannell are the paranormal investigators in the Insidious series. Perhaps because they have spent so much time together on camera recently their performances are really great to watch.  The writing here is well paced. It really draws an escalating series of wicked plot twists from the material. It is low key and dark but punchy and highly effective. It is also brutally funny and sometimes just plain brutal. There is almost an element of Hitchcock there. You know the classic trope of an ordinary guy in way over his head and inexorably turning the screw.

Sampson’s portrayal of Ray really lifts this above the ordinary. He really does some amazing physical work here. What is also unusual is that this role is largely a reactive one – taciturn, squirming and humiliated, but still having to suggest a dull canniness that every other character underestimates. Whannell is excellent, easily the best thing I have seen him in. Veterans Noble and Weaving are clearly enjoying themselves in this as well. Noble’s turn as Pat is solid and menacing. Hugo Weaving is one of this country’s finest and he really looks like he is enjoying being the sneering almost Gorilla like bent policeman.

 

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THE MULE | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | RAY JENKINS (ANGUS SAMPSON)

 

The strong characters really give THE MULE its extra punch. It is a violently funny comedy and shockingly effective, even at times a gleefully nauseating thriller. But here’s the thing; while THE MULE serves up some pretty extreme situations – and they’re undoubtedly some of its selling points – it genuinely doesn’t wallow in them. There’s a sensitivity and subtlety here, in and out of the lavatory, that mark it out as way smarter and more sophisticated than most.

I had a lot of fun with this one.

 

4 Pops