Blu-ray Review: Swerve (2011)

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A cleverly conceived if ultimately convoluted crime film hybrid of conman capers and classic Film Noir, Swerve serves up a little bit of Hitchcock on the side for good measure to establish the innocence of our Wrong Man/Everyman lead Colin (played by David Lyons).

Following a beautiful blonde and a briefcase of money – both of which just survived a car wreck – instead of his brain, Colin wanders into a viper’s nest of two-faced, half-truth spouting toughs in a small southern town in the middle of the Australian outback.

Building his plot from the favored ingredients of hardboiled pulp fiction tales of yesteryear, while writer/director Craig Lahiff knows this genre inside and out, one of Swerve’s biggest obstacles is that the film never manages to transcend or break free from the trappings of so many superior Noirs that came before it.

Filmed over the course of seven weeks in 2010, while it’s strengthened by its stellar cast including the scene-stealing Great Gatsby star Jason Clarke as blonde Jina’s dominant police officer husband, the film suffers from a surprisingly shoddy Blu-ray transfer that muddies up the image with so much grain that throughout the film, I’d wondered if cinematographer David Forman’s camera was defective or if he was using a screen door as a filter to film through.

While adjusting the color temperature on the TV’s image does help a little if you opt for a darker visual calibration (like “Calibrated Dark” or “Night Movie”) to make the lines and grain onscreen less noticeable, it was surprisingly poor given that its disc manufacturer Cohen Media Group is usually top notch when it comes to lush high definition transfers as evidenced in recent releases.

Regardless of the aesthetic drawback, Lahiff’s Swerve certainly does entertain and it’s sure to appeal to Noir-devoted viewers who would enjoy piecing together the film’s obvious sources of inspiration. While it’s nowhere near the same level as Noir and Neo-Noir genre masterpieces Blood Simple, Red Rock West and The Postman Always Rings Twice or even flawed if fascinating modern hits with which it bears much in common from A Simple Plan to Transsiberian, it’s an impressive Saturday night worthy B-movie noir.

Despite suffering from one too many twists and offscreen double crosses as Lahiff makes the fatal third act flaw of “telling” rather than “showing” far too much, it’s still worth checking out. While if you think about it too much, you’re sure to find multiple holes in the plot, Swerve works best if you just switch your brain off and enjoy the rickety rollercoaster ride.

Losing some of the action-driven momentum from the wildly impressive slam-bang opening sequence with an overly complicated web of characters who continually cross one another before coming clean again and again, fortunately Swerve picks up speed as it careens into a crazy finale.

A briskly paced, fast moving whirl from down under that offers plenty of twists and thrills – Swerve is proof that even if you can see the turns coming, it doesn’t make the experience any less fun, regardless of how many times you’ve been along for the ride.

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