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Australia 2009
Directed by
Matthew Newton
94 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Three Blind Mice

Well-known actor Matthew Newton’s inaugural attempt at writing and directing is both highly impressive and ultimately unengaging. Three Blind Mice tells the story, of a trio young naval officers who are spending a night in a Sydney hotel prior to returning to their ship and an overseas posting. Or not, as one of them, Sam (Ewen Leslie) has been brutalized by his superiors and has decided to desert. Of the others Dean (Toby Schmitz) was one of his tormentors whilst Harry (Newton), Dean’s friend is trying to make sure that Sam doesn’t do something that he will regret.

Newtown impresses both with the range of his skill set (he also co-produced) and his trenchantly dark sensibility. The script is wickedly authentic with a level of sustained acerbity rarely seen in Australian film and is the bedrock of the film's success. How much of it was improvised is impossible to know but it is live-wire stuff and the performances, from a tip-top cast of Australian actors, do it justice . Newtown clearly has very good connections (his father is Australian TV icon Bert Newton) and the cast list ranges from veterans like Bud Tingwell, Barry Otto and Jacki Weaver to mid-career names like Brendan Cowell and Pia Miranda to newcomers such as Gracie Otto (daughter to Barry).

Striking as it is, the film is that it lacks pacing and feels a little too mannered to convince. Dramatically it burbles on like a brook as Harry hires a couple of hookers, the boys get in a card game at the back of a pizza shop that leads to a fight, the hookers’ pimp bails up Sam who puts him in hospital etc. etc. It's all rather reminiscent of Hal Ashby’s The Last Detail (1973), memorable as one of Jack Nicholson’s classic bad-boy performances. The trouble is that these shenanigans fit within the American ethos of men behaving badly but not an Australian one (or maybe I'm showing my age here, perhaps Gen X Australians now do behave like they are in an American movie, in which case this should resonate with the XY demographic). Not that Newton manages to make the events particularly exciting  - they simply happen without any real dynamic or sense of tension (the narrative is elliptically edited, leaping from one key plot point to the next).

The result is that the film falls between the two stools of American pulp fiction and Australian laconicism and ends up being neither one thing nor the other.

Nothwithstanding, Three Blind Mice bespeaks a formidable talent in the person of Matt Newton.




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