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4.3 out of 5 stars
The Square
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on August 27, 2010
Format: DVD
Noir films obsess over unintended consequences, on the destruction that may proceed from the slightest failures of foresight or from simple chance. This notion is best illustrated in the literary forebear "The Maltese Falcon," where Spade reflects on Flitcraft, a seemingly normal, happy man who one day abandoned his job and family after nearly being crushed by a falling beam. The truth, Flitcraft realized, was that the seeming solidity of his world was a lie--all could be lost in an instant for no reason at all. So, he abandoned this world, abandoned regularity and left it all behind. In Nash Edgerton's feature debut "The Square," Raymond Yale (David Roberts), an ethically dubious construction manager, decides to begin anew as well, not for any philosophical reasons, but rather because he is tired of his wife or, at least, much more interested in the lovely young Carla Smith (Claire van der Boom [a ridiculous name, even by Dutch standards]), a neighbor from across the cove in their small Australian town. Raymond would actually prefer to simply keep seeing Carla on the side, but Carla wants to escape her loutish, criminal husband Smithy (Anthony Hayes), and gives Raymond an ultimatum. Raymond finally relents, and they decide to fund their escape by relieving Smithy of a few hundred thousand ill-gotten dollars, and covering their theft by hiring the shady Billy (Joel Edgerton, co-writer and brother of Nash) to burn the Smith house while the town collectively takes part in Christmas festivities. This seemingly straightforward plan, however, goes horrifically awry and, in a vision rather more moralistic than that of the Darwinian-minded Hammett, Raymond and Carla soon find that the beams are falling with disturbing regularity. Many viewers will be incredulous that Murphy's Law could be applied with such speed and merciless consistency, but this is part of the film's fun, seeing how everything falls apart so completely. More significantly, while chance is clearly against all those involved, the human motivations remain clear and believable. They repeatedly fall into traps, but we can see how and why they wandered into them.

"The Square" is a somewhat difficult film to review, as the reviewer must reveal little. Many have compensated by comparing it to earlier works, particularly "Blood Simple." This is indeed apt even beyond the obvious fraternal debut collaboration on a severely noir-oriented thriller angle. Significantly, Edgerton and co. take a Coen-esque hyper-cinematic and slightly postmodern approach (though in a non-winking manner), reinforce the drama via delicious black humor, and even the sparse solo piano that often drives the score reminds of "Blood Simple"'s minimalist soundtrack. The Australian setting, however, makes "The Square" stand apart somewhat from its antecedents. Though perhaps I'm alone in this, my exposure to Australian film have given me a quasi-mythical view of the country as being somehow more brutal and raw then the rest of the Anglosphere. This is no doubt hyperbolic if not an utter fabrication, but this vision is reinforced and expanded by "The Square," where this Australian town seems a sort of grotesque recasting of the stereotypical image of the American south, filled with steamy intrigue and hardened rednecks bearing antisocial hair. (The mullet budget on this film must've been enormous.) Thus, it is appropriate and familiar, yet still somehow new. Similarly, Edgerton expands the visual palette, mixing standard noir high-contrast and emphasis on night, shadow and rain with a dusty, gray-brown color scheme that oozes sleaze and treachery. (Indeed the film is so smudged and muted looking that I wondered if the theater had turned down the bulb, though viewing the DVD proved this was not the case.) Despite the low-budget and 16mm film stock, however, the film is quite smooth and professional, filled with terse, hard-edged performances and edited down to a sharp, tightly knit narrative. (This efficiency is made even more evident after viewing the 25 minutes of deleted scenes on the DVD.) The film is not exactly fast-paced, but it has an unrelenting intensity to it--everything seems to matter, and does. (That said, the film still has the odd little touches that make a movie stand out, such as the peculiar subplot about the adulterous pair's similarly enamored pet dogs.)

The main criticism viewers will have of "The Square" is from a human interest angle. There are no heroes, as Raymond is a cheater and corrupt businessman (he receives kickbacks from contractors) even before they embark on the scheme, while Carla is little more than an adulterous cipher. (Quite an attractive one, though. Mentioned that before did I? May well do so again before the review is done.) Though I can't deny that Raymond is a bad guy, I'll admit to sympathizing with him. While films of this sort often suggest that venal sins lead to those of a mortal nature, Raymond doesn't really become more malevolent as the film progresses, but merely has the world collapse around him. As soon as the arson goes awry and Raymond begins receiving mysterious cards demanding cash for silence (but about what? He has many secrets), he is paralyzed, hopeless. Other reviewers have compared the film to a nightmare, the sort where you perform some terrible deed and spend the rest of the dream awaiting and fearing your punishment. (And, of course, failing at simple tasks and having absolutely everything go wrong is another common dream theme.) The resemblance is indeed uncanny, and the dreadful sensation it imbues draws me deep into Raymond's plight even if, objectively speaking, he seems to be asking for some sort of rebuke. (Many others, however, receive rather unwarranted retribution.)

I've been pretty cagey here by necessity, so I'll throw in a few honorifics. In short, "The Square" is the best thriller since "No Country For Old Men" and perhaps the best thrillers of the 00s apart from that film. Discover it now before the other cult film aficionados find it and be hipper than the rest.

Grade: A
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on July 11, 2010
Format: DVD
Had the good fortune to see this in Pittsburgh last night, with a Q&A session with director Nash Edgerton after the film. This is the best thriller I've seen in a very long time -- gritty, emotional and incredibly tense. Comparisons with the Coens and their debut 'Blood Simple' are inevitable, but 'The Square' is not a copycat film in any sense. The tension barely lets up during the course of the entire movie, and there's a constant feel of menace, like something really bad is always lurking just around the corner (it usually is).

Performances, direction, screenplay, music -- everything is top-shelf here. If you like thrillers this is not to be missed.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon July 21, 2010
Format: DVD
When you are looking for a movie that is a little different and that will keep you interested throughout, but without any big names, this one will do nicely. The movie is a low budget film from Australia directed by Nash Edgerton and it stars his brother Joel Edgerton who also was a writer for this film. I found the acting to be quite good and the plotline was interesting and entertaining. This movie kept me on the edge of my seat throughout. I don't like to give away plots, so I'll give a quick summary: A contractor is taking bribes from his subcontractor. Meanwhile he is having an affair with woman in the same town. Her husband is close friends with another subcontractor. The woman finds that her husband has a stash of cash and so she and the contractor begin a plan to escape their marriages and their spouses. Thus begins the Manifestation of Murphy's Law.

There are some negatives. The sound is very annoying. The actors are difficult to understand with their Aussie accents and the clarity of the sound makes it doubly difficult to make out all of the conversations. So I missed some of the subtleties. Some of the parts were overplayed - at the end particularly.

However, that said, I would definitely recommend this film to anyone that enjoys an edgy, tense drama. There was also a short film prior to the main feature; this was also a Nash Edgerton film. It was terrific and once during The Square, one of those characters makes his way into the emergency room (very Hitchcock like).

I'm giving it a 4 star rating because I enjoyed it; beware, though, my wife would only have given it a 2.5 star rating. But we often do not see eye to eye on movie reviews.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 2, 2011
Format: DVD
The story has been painstakingly described by other reviewers, so I will dispense with that formality. The plot was intricately conceived and played out, easily the equal of Blood Simple, A Simple Plan, and other, similar productions by far better-known directors such as Sam Raimi and the Cohen brothers. Indeed, each step in its progression meets the criteria of plausibility. Anyone who yields to the temptation of a seemingly simple, straightforward but illegal path always discovers that it rapidly escalates into a dangerous labyrinth of unforeseen consequences and suffocating guilt. Each new move simply makes the noose a bit tighter. So it was with Raymond and Carla.

But from the first few moments, an issue began nagging at my common sense. What forces could have ever brought this couple together in the first place? Yes, they lived in semi-proximity on opposite sides of an inlet, but what traits did Raymond display at any time which would endear him to a much younger and more attractive woman? He was completely devoid of personality and humor, of meager financial means, physically unimpressive, weak-willed and submissive. Go to a young-singles bar looking and acting like Raymond and you will be going home alone.

Yet, he somehow so excited Carla, who could have her pick of younger and much more attractive men, that she chose to sneak around on her intimidating husband and engage in a risky, tawdry affair in parked cars and motels. If she wanted out of her marriage, why didn't she simply steal the satchel of money and run? Raymond was never portrayed as a dupe, as in Body Heat. Her passion for him is presented as real and unwavering, yet at no time did I honestly sense a real, explicable bond between these characters. For this story to work for me, Raymond would have to possess a lot more charm.

This deficiency detracted from my enjoyment of the movie somewhat and cost it one star. I still highly recommend it, but with a much more dynamic Raymond, it could have been a minor masterpiece.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 25, 2011
Format: DVD
Every choice seems fairly reasonable (if not necessarily honorable) at the time but things spin slowly farther and farther out of control. Justly compared to the Cohen Brothers' thrillers. I'll be on the lookout for the Edgerton brothers' next film. The short film "Spider" which precedes "The Square" is a pretty near perfect short; a little morality fable about the unintended consequences of a practical joke.
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on August 19, 2014
Format: DVD
“The Square” is receiving a surprising level of press considering it is a low budget aussie‐indie. It’s billed
as a modern film noir with the story of a man whose life gets very complicated when his mistress brings
him a bag of dirty money.  It has all the makings of Coen Brothers classic—indeed the two brothers who
wrote and directed the film are being compared to Joel and Ethan—but somehow by the end you’re not
in love with any one character on the screen. You end up sort of caring about the lead character by
default, and at that you’re barely happy to see who survives the clichéd “Mexican stand off” at the end
(yes, an Australian movie with a Mexican standoff).
The movie is getting some awards (especially in its home country), and some critics are raving about it!
Some audiences are too! So you may want to see it and let me know if I’ve got it all wrong. Because
here’s my take: there’s no chemistry between the lead actor and his mistress (and I expect no less than a
Mitchum‐Greer combo as in “Out of the Past”), and as the main character’s life unravels so does plot.
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on December 23, 2010
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
The Square is yet another fine Austalian drama. It tells of an affair, of betrayal, and revenge. It is set in the construction site of a large road bridge. An unlikely location for a powerful drama.
The opening scene in the rain where the leads are bonking furiously in an old Ford Laser may seem a bit off putting for some viewers (how could they fit in such a small vehicle). The plot is unusual but highly believable leading to a dramatic and surprising finale. They say The Square is a 'stroke of twisted genius' and I heartily concur.
As usual in Australian movies the leading actors are ably assisted by a team of polished minor characters, all drawn from Australian theatre and television.
I get The Square feeling this will become a Cult Film.
Mash Edgerton's direction and Luke Doolan's editing are tight and up to the highest standard.
Three and a half stars.
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on January 8, 2011
Format: Blu-ray
An Australian movie `The Square' deals with infidelity and murder. An husband who is an contractor is having an affair with a neighbors wife. Things are under control but the neighbor's wife discovers a stash of cash carefully hidden by her husband. She begs her lover, the contractor to steal the cash so that she and him can start a new life. Unsure at first, he reluctantly agrees and that is when things start to get out of control.
Debut director Edgarton has done a fantastic job in keeping the narrative tight in this noir film. The hallmark of great suspenseful films is the fact that they have great momentum and moments of anticipation, this film scores highly in that respect. There are enough twists and turns which make it a worth watch. Highly recommended. 1/6/10
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 20, 2010
Format: DVD
The message is familiar: adultery brings consequences to all those involved. This film takes it to another level with deadly repercussions for many of the people involved in this mess, one of whom has also engaged in an illegal scheme at work that only complicates things even further for him.

There is also an odd and rather sad metaphor involving two dogs which belong to some of the people of the film; I won't spoil it.

You will not be able to predict all the things that will go horribly wrong here, and that's a good thing.
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Format: DVD
I'll admit I'm a sap for the types of films that start out with an unelaborate plan and then everything gets intricate along the way. The Square is one nervy nail biter and a great deal of amusement and hazard to go with your fattening popcorn and liver disease causing soft drinks.

Highly recommended if you take pleasure in those films that include all the film noir staples: itching, sex, greed, lust, suspense, and partially black places with no place to hide.

The thriller aspect is very well done, with plot twists that keep you you alert and attentive.
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