The Hard Word is an Australian film that most likely looked great on paper, but somewhere along the line, it stumbled into mediocrity. The two culprits I see are a few missteps in the plot, and poor casting for a major role.
The Twentyman brothers, Dale (the leader), Shane (the muscle), and Mal (the sensitive one), played by Guy Pearce, Joel Edgerton, and Damien Richardson, respectively, are expert bank robbers who are doing their best to get by in prison. Luckily for them, they have a means of spending their time that is both exciting and rewarding: they rob banks for crooked cops. In exchange for their services, they expect to get a shortened sentence and a cut of the money.
Naturally, as is necessary for all good heist movies, there needs to be a bad guy. He comes in the form of Frank (Robert Taylor), the group's lawyer who sets up the robberies and is the middle man between the brothers and the cops. Frank is sleeping with Carol (Rachel Griffiths), Dale's wife. He's also setting them up so he gets all the money (and the girl) and the brothers get to languish in jail.
The premise sounds promising. Throw in some gun play, a cool robbery scene, maybe a little sex, and you've got yourself a winner. Unfortunately, the film never grabs you the way a film of this nature should. It's neither exciting or tense, two key elements to a heist flick.
One reason for this is that the whole scenario is slightly hard to believe. Why would the brothers go along with this plan? It's never explained and is hard to buy from the get go. Especially after Dale realizes Frank is sleeping with his wife. By then it is probably too late, but if he's as smart as we're expected to believe, then we at least need to see him ponder his alternatives.
I think I could've let that one slide, but Frank's character never seems evil enough to scheme the way he does in this film. Sure, he seems slimy here, but he doesn't show enough back bone or charisma necessary to best Dale. With a villain who is too "soft," this film couldn't suspend my disbelief long enough to care about the characters and worry about the outcome of any particular scene.
This film is definitely watchable. It has some good action (although there could've been more) and some good heist scenes (both the early bank robbery and the climatic heist).
Lion's Gate presents The Hard Word in 1.85 anamorphic widescreen that preserves the original aspect ratio of the film's tour at theaters. There's nothing particularly outstanding about this transfer, but nothing particularly bad, either. Colors are generally bland, but that's the way the film was shot. Darks look good, however. Detail is good, but not overly sharp. In other words, the transfer gets the job done, but not much more.
Lion's Gate presents The Hard Word in 5.1 Dolby Digital. The key to this track is the excellent music by David Thrussell. The music really booms, and in a way, actually becomes a character in the film. I found myself paying more attention to the music than to the actual story. The rest of the track gets the job done, but with little fanfare. The low end is adequate, but the rears are used sparingly. Voices are generally crisp, if a tad quiet.
Along with the audio track, you get the option of using English and Spanish subtitles.
THE BONUS FEATURES
There are a number of extra features on this disc, but nothing that screams out for attention. The screen specific commentary by writer/director Scott Roberts is well-paced and informative, but too often he gets bogged down in mentioning what each scene is supposed to mean, and what each character is thinking or showing in each scene. Although this is enlightening from time to time, all too often it smacks of an artist telling his audience what his masterpiece is supposed to mean.
Easily the coolest thing on this disc is the isolated music score. David Thrussell's music really pumps, and it has the hard edge the film needed to pull off the plot. Great stuff.
The one feature I was looking forward to the most was "Meatierology: A Glossary of Butcher Speak". It's definitely cool to see the origins of this interesting lingo, but the featurette does little more than whet the appetite.
You also get a fluffy behind-the-scenes featurette, an updated cast and crew listing, the music video for the opening theme, and a storyboard to screen comparison.
Surprisingly, the menus are anamorphic widescreen with images from the film rushing by to the fast pace of the soundtrack. Even without a 5.1 track, this sounds great. Not the best menu, perhaps, but they do get you geared up for the flick.
The Hard Word has a good premise that never takes off thanks to some unbelievable plot points and a weak villain. Most will be entertained by this film, but probably not enough to plunk down $20 for a purchase.