Seedy locales, femme fatales, morally ambiguous characters and situations—these are but some of the elements that make up film and neo noir. A world where cynicism is king and nobody gets out clean. Writer/Director Craig Lahiff’s Swerve strives to emulate many of the characteristics found in noir, although some things work better than others.
The film follows Colin, a war vet and drifter, who happens upon a car accident with a dead drug dealer, a beautiful woman, and a suitcase full of cash. He delivers the cash to the local authorities, but soon finds himself caught up in a world of trouble. What sounds great on paper sometimes doesn’t translate well on screen, and this is one of those instances. The film’s story is fraught with plot-holes and implausibility. For example (let it be noted, mild SPOILERS follow), there is a subplot in which policeman Frank’s partner Chris has been killed. We are first led to believe that his wife had an affair with Chris and then killed him, but then in the end, Frank admits to killing him. Between the plot-holes, the lightening quick dialogue, and the speedy run-time of 86 minutes, it’s easy to see how the story can become confusing.
The three leads, David Lyons (NBC’s Revolution), Emma Booth (Parker), and Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty, Lawless), have done better work in their aforementioned films. Here, we have David Lyons and Emma Booth struggling to portray some kind of sexual tension, while Jason Clarke plays an over-the-top, almost flamboyant police officer. There are some other noteworthy cameos, such as Roy Billing, who has been on many Australian TV shows, but the cameos will likely be lost on American audiences.
As I mentioned above, some things work better than others. The cinematography is great. Expansive shots of the Australian Outback, Dutch camera angles that harken back to German Expressionism, and other atypical shots that categorize film noir. Out of everything, this is probably what kept me most entertained and that’s not saying much.
Swerve tries too hard to be a tension-filled thrill ride, with Lahiff’s story being a tired old bag of tricks, full of plot holes. It never manages to grab the attention of the viewer and drags on despite the lean running time. If you’re a fan of noir, it might be worth checking out, otherwise, “swerve” to avoid this one. As the tagline suggests, wrong turn, wrong place, wrong time and this has never rung more true.