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Gettin’ Square

Year: 2003
Production Co: Squared Productions
Director: John Teplitzky
Writer: Chris Nyst
Cast: Sam Worthington, David Wenham, Gary Sweet, Timothy Spall, David Field, Freya Stafford, Richard Carter, Joe Bugner

There have only been three unashamedly enjoyable Australian movies - the same way many American movies are purely for their entertainment value. There've been plenty of great Australian films, but like our book publishing industry, our film industry (and critics) tend to look down their noses at the blatantly fun, commercial or pulp, so it's the cheap and quirky arthouse stuff that mostly gets to see the light of day.

And alongside Dirty Deeds and Two Hands, there's now Gettin' Square. Barry (Worthington) is in jail with Johnny Spit (Wenham), and the two have a true friendship and both want to get square (crimspeak for go straight). Johnny gets out but can't control his heroin habit (or his lack of fashion sense). Barry gets out but can't get the malicious, corrupt cop who put him away (Field), his former boss Chika (Sweet) or his beautiful parole officer (Stafford) off his back.

Meanwhile, Dabba (Spall) is a former crime kingpin desperately trying to go straight himself, until an ACIC investigation tries to pin the sixty grand they find in his backyard on him to put him away. The whole thing coalesces in a heist full of double crosses and twists.The three subplots are so seamlessly tied together that some of the established filmmakers in this country could learn plenty from first time screenwriter and Queensland based lawyer Chris Nyst.

Spall is a priceless caricature of the former bad boy trying to be good - given life by the comical devotion he gives to his new diet along with his former minder (Carter). Worthington plays a very straight, likeable hero to the larger than life characters around him, but it's David Wenham who takes the cake. I've always considered him a pretty shocking actor, but he stole every scene he was in as the daggy, strung-out drug addict Johnny Spit. Flipping and flopping around in thongs and bad shirts with his greasy mullet and unshaven, pimply face, he plays the slimy but stupid part so fully you love him, and when it's all over you can't help wondering if he's smarter than he appears on the surface of the story. The courtroom scene, where he has an entire room full of slick investigators and officers unwittingly at bay, is one of the standout comedy set pieces of the year.

The story is great, the characters interesting, the delivery more than adequate; it has successful multiplex movie written all over it, and I for one hope that it's recent rash of nominations at the AFI awards give it the credit (and market) it deserves.

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