Crime doesn’t pay – unless, of course, you are in the movie business. The crime genre is one that spans the years and the movie-making hubs of the world from Hollywood to Bollywood. Most crime movies place the viewers on the side of the good and law-abiding as they bring the criminals to justice. But there’s a type of crime movie that skews things a little.
Caper movies inject a little humor into the action and have become something of a specialty of the Australian film industry. They also tend to raise some interesting questions of morality, as we often find ourselves sympathizing with the criminals and rooting for them to pull off their plan. Here, we have selected a handful of the best Aussie caper movies from over the years. How many of them have you seen?
Idiot Box (1996) features the world’s worst bank robbers
America had Bill and Ted, Australia had Mick and Kev, two bored lads with plenty of time and no resources. Their decision to rob a bank is clearly a disaster from the outset, and as things spiral out of control, we can’t help but root for the pair of misfits. Director David Caesar paints a realistic and tragic picture of Australia’s young working class of the 1990s.
Over the past 20 years, Ben Mendelsohn, who plays Kev, has forged out a career in Hollywood as a character actor specializing in villains. It’s intriguing to see him playing a more fleshed out role in his earlier years.
Kiss or Kill (1997) is a forgotten classic
Al and Nikki, played by Frances O’Connor and Matt Day are small-time confidence tricksters, who make their living duping intoxicated businessmen out of their Australian dollars in Adelaide. When a job goes wrong and a mark ends up dead, they head for the outback, and soon, the authorities are the least of their worries. As the body count rises, they start to wonder if they can even trust one another.
The two leads are fantastic, and the movie won multiple awards back in 1997 but has been largely forgotten since. There are also some great supporting characters, although most have limited screen time due to the delight the director takes in upping the body count at every available opportunity.
Two Hands (1999) introduced a young Heath Ledger
It’s been more than 15 years since Heath Ledger’s tragic and untimely passing. Two Hands is one of his earliest film roles. He stars as Jimmy, a teenager trying to make a name for himself in Sydney’s criminal underworld. When he blows a routine delivery job and finds himself owing a criminal kingpin thousands of dollars, he hides out and hastily tries to prepare a bank robbery so he can get the hoodlums off his back and go for a date with the girl of his dreams.
Two Hands has been compared with Guy Richie’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels for its uncompromising look at a city’s criminal underbelly and its clever use of pathos and black humor to keep us focused on the action and siding with the otherwise unsympathetic characters.
Dirty Deeds (2002) explores Australia’s casino fascination
Australians have a fascination with casinos that goes back to the 1940s when pokies were introduced Down Under. It is just as strong today thanks to the dozens of Australian online casinos for real money that are around in cyberspace and that offer hundreds of pokies and casino table games. Dirty Deeds is set midway between these two eras in the early 1970s.
Barry, played by Bryan Brown, is a small-time Sydney crook running an illegal gambling racket. When his Vietnam Vet son returns home, he is followed by two US mobsters who want a slice of the business. A great cast, a fast moving plot and great attention to detail capture the post-Vietnam atmosphere perfectly.
The Hard Word (2002) has a stellar cast and plenty of twists
This laugh-a-minute caper movie sees three brothers, played by Guy Pearce, Damien Richardson and Joel Edgerton, who are released from prison for the day to carry out a heist for some corrupt cops.
The heist is entertaining and well-drawn but where this movie scores is in the interplay between the characters. Just who can the brothers trust? Their lawyer? Their wives? The leads and the support cast all do a fantastic job.
Australia’s movie industry might not have such a high profile or big budget as some. However it includes some mighty talent on both sides of the camera.
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