Joel Edgerton (The Great Gatsby, Warrior) writes and headlines Felony, an Australian police thriller that starts off with a bang only to shoot you in a completely different direction.
We meet Malcolm (Joel Edgerton) as he leads his fellow cops on a drug raid. As they run one way, his instincts veer him to an alternate route. Though he finds the crook, the shootout ends with a bullet ridden Malcolm lying on the ground.
Thankfully, the culprit is caught by the police, and Malcolm’s new best friend is his Kevlar vest. As he slowly composes himself, he walks towards the criminal and punches him sans hesitation.
Malcolm may have abused police procedure, but since the men and women of his squad are a close knit bunch, that impulsive act never makes the report. It’s this above the law attitude which pervades throughout Felony, and when Malcolm accidentally hits an Indian youth who’s riding a bicycle, an altogether different crime emerges.
Detective Carl Summer (Tom Wilkinson, fantastic as always) covers up the incident without hesitation, bending the truth to fit Malcolm’s fabricated story. However, Carl’s wet behind the ears, straight arrow partner Jim (Jai Courtney) gradually realizes Malcolm may not be the Good Samaritan who saved the boy’s life. Jim launches his own investigation into the accident, attempting to right a few wrongs along the way.
Edgerton, who also co-penned The Rover with Animal Kingdom filmmaker David Michod, is not exactly interested in the inner workings of the police procedural. Rather, Felony examines how three men at pivotal points in their life deal with this tragedy (Malcolm was inebriated when he hit the boy). Detective Summer knows his days on the police force are numbered, and his main goals are to catch as many criminals as possible and protect his own, no matter what the consequence.
Summer’s influence temporarily takes hold of Malcolm, who also has a family (Melissa George is his wife) to worry about. When partaking in domestic life, aiming for the greater good may take a back seat to self-preservation, but Malcolm’s all-consuming guilt is more than he can handle.
The world is black and white for Jim. He’s the lone wolf of the squad, believing justice is the only measuring stick. When he gets attached to the boy’s mother, those principles are put to the test.
Felony may draw an audience looking for a testosterone driven cop drama, but an even tougher fight is brimming under the surface. Thanks to slam-bang performances from Edgerton, Courtney (who does some of his best work to date), and Wilkinson, Felony is more than just a preachy drama about morality and compromise.
Don’t expect too much gun play or over the top fisticuffs from the feature. It’s more of a battle of wills among the three cops, and seeing talented actors play their respective chess game is a thrill to watch. Felony’s ending is ambiguous as the day is long, but considering these men are playing for higher stakes, there’s no clear cut winner. But the gamble, if you’re the viewer, should pay off.
Felony (100 minutes) is now playing in select theaters and is available On Demand.