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by Kilian Melloy
Tuesday Mar 18, 2014

Take a couple of your favorite Coen brothers movies -- say, "Blood Simple" and "No Country for Old Men" -- and toss in just a drop of "Grifters," shake well, and then serve up the result in the sprawling Australian outback. What you'll get is quite likely to be along the lines of director Craig Lahiff's sunny noir / dark comedy from 2011, "Swerve."

The landscapes here are vast, parched, and empty; the men are brooding hunks; and the women... or, anyway, woman, singular... devious, dangerous, and (to those silly straight boys) irresistible. Colin (David Lyons, "ER," and "Revolution") is a nice guy in a tough spot; his car has overheated in the desert. He's barely able to limp into Neverest, a flyspeck of a town, where a now-dead drug-runner was planning to meet up with a contact.

This only matters to Colin because he witnessed the car crash that killed the drug-runner. The other car was driven by cunning blonde seductress Jina (Emma Booth). She's in need, and he's gallant, so he drives her home; when he continues on to town, looking to turn in a briefcase full of cash salvaged from the wreck, he makes the acquaintance of Frank (Jason Clarke, "Zero Dark Thirty"), the town cop whose partner has recently gone missing... and, it turns out, Jina's jealous husband.

When the cash proves as apt to vanish as Jina's fidelity, a merry chase starts up between husband, wife, and coolly lethal underworld brute Charlie (Travis McMahon), who will kill anyone who gets between him and the money. The resulting web of suspicion, betrayal, and rage grows to engulf everyone, and threatens to leave none of them standing. Along the way, a good old-fashioned mystery story unfolds -- as police marching bands, improbably converging on Neverest for a couple of days, tramp and bleat obliviously in the town's hot dust.

Satirical and violent, "Swerve" has some plot problems (no one reports a local cop on a rampage? Bodies left in train cars, mine shafts, and police headquarters fail to raise suspicions?), but moves at such breakneck speed that you don't really pause to let them bother you.

This Cohen Media Group Blu-ray release has a handful of slight extras. In addition to the theatrical trailer, there are several brief interviews with actors who appear in the movie (most notably Clark), as well as editor Sean Lahitt, who grooves on getting into the technical details of shooting the picture's action scenes.

This disc is a jolt of adrenaline-spiked fun, but you probably won't watch it more than once; meantime, the timeless Coen Brothers films beckon. Rent this title, buy "Blood Simple" if you haven't already, and call it a day.


Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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