Son of a Gun
Director: Julius Avery
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Brendan Kerkvliet, Brenton Thwaites
108 mins; Class 15;
KRS Releasing Ltd

Ewan McGregor shows us his tough guy side in this solid crime drama from Australia, in which he stars as hardened criminal Brendan, serving time in a Western Australian prison.

When young offender JR (Brenton Thwaites) enters prison to serve a short six-month sentence, Brendan takes him under his wing, but his protection has a price.

Brendan needs JR’s help to stage an elaborate breakout… and once Brendan is out and back in the fold of the underworld syndicate run by the ruthless Sam Lennox (Jacek Koman), JR gets caught up in this world both professionally and romantically; on the one hand as Lennox and Brendan plot a major heist; while on the other, the beautiful Tasha (Alicia Vikander), Lennox’s girlfriend catches his eye.

As JR begins to enjoy the high life and becomes more involved in an elaborate heist planned by Lennox, he soon realises that loyalties within the gang are not quite what they seem to be. Soon, he needs to fend for himself in this unfamiliar and dangerous world.

This is not merely a story of tough guys double-crossing one another, but in a way it’s a coming-of-age story of a young man who finally finds the father figure he craves, even though that figure is hardly a good role model.

Trots along at an effective pace

The underlying crime story and resulting action tread familiar ground. However, the script by John Collee and Julius Avery (who also directs with a solid hand) is equally invested in the characters.

The dynamic between Brendan and JR which essentially drives the story forward is a strong one; as is the blossoming relationship between JR and Tasha thanks to excellent performances from McGregor, newcomer Thwaites, and rising star Alicia Vikander.

McGregor is convincing as the tough, ruthless but equally charismatic Brendan, who knows no life other than the criminal one.

This is a man who has no qualms about law-breaking and ultimately violence, and deserves to be behind bars, yet McGregor adds a subtle layer of empathy, depicting him as a complex and, in his own twisted way, an honourable man.

He feels some genuine affection for JR and the putative father-son relationship that develops between the two never rings false amid the testosterone-fuelled story.

Thwaites more than holds his own in the middle of the tough guys as the impressionable kid among the men.

The young actor is genuinely convincing as he toughens up out of necessity brought on by the circumstances.

Swedish actress Alicia Vikander is more than merely eye candy and is excellent as the tough as nails yet vulnerable Tasha, another performance that – together with her role in the upcoming Ex Machina – establishes her as one of the most interesting young actresses working today.

It’s not a setup we haven’t seen before, yet Son of a Gun trots along at an effective pace, resulting in what is simply a good old-fashioned crime drama featuring many exciting set pieces – a fast and furious prison break, a well-plotted and executed gold heist and just enough twists to keep the audience guessing.