Directed by: Tony Mahony and Angus Sampson
At this time of the year film fans are usually telling each other what their top movies of the year are. There’s the odd film that you never got around to seeing, that might need to wait until 2015, for me that’s ‘Gone Girl’, then there’s the film that you watch just after having had the top movie conversation with a mate. ‘The Mule’ just might have creeped into my top ten of the year. It’s the film I’d like to tell my friends about.
Set in the early eighties, ‘The Mule’ suggets that Australia hasn’t changed all that much in the last thirty years. The lads still like Footie, sporting dodgy facial hair, saying the word “cunt” and going over to Thailand to blow off some steam.
The premise of ‘The Mule’ is that a pretty average working class bloke called Ray, who is a bit of a Mummy’s boy, gets roped into being a drug mule for a dodgy gangster. Dreaming of the dollars Ray reluctantly quits his job as an electrical repair man and agrees to be a drug smuggler. Unfortunately for Ray he gets stopped at customs on the way back from Thailand. Ray is detained by the Police, but forced to stay in a hotel under twenty four hour supervision until he shits out the bag of heroin that rests in his belly because he decides not to undergo an X ray. All Ray has to do is hold it all in for seven days in order to be a free man.
Most of the movie is set in the hotel room, and the claustrophobic tension carries well. Hugo Weaving is particularly great as the permanently frustrated Detective Croft who doesn’t take too kindly to Ray’s stubborn refusal to empty his bowels. Weaving barks, snarls and torments Ray, enough to cause most men to shit themselves in fear.
The tension really ramps up outside of the hotel room as the gangster wonders who on earth has his drugs and decides to go about finding the answers. The finger of blame is pointed on Ray’s mate, and the team captain of the footie team Gav, who is pursued by the gangster’s bulky henchman.
Typical of Australian humour the comedy moves from crass blokey stuff to very subtle clever dry one liners. Surprisingly the go too gags involving flatulence, constipation and sticky icky brown stuff isn’t overdone, and we’re left with one of those films which artfully blends the serious with the silly.
Angus Sampson, who co-directed and stars as Ray, is superb, he goes above and beyond in this movie, presenting a very convincing physical performance as a man in a severe constipated state. There’s something satisfying about Ray not only dealing with his internal battle but also sticking the middle finger up at the cops.
The backdrop to the movie is another true underdog story, in which the Australian II yacht managed to win the America’s Cup breaking the longest winning streak in sporting history. It’s odd to watch a film in which you find yourself rooting for a man not to have a poo, but strangely ‘The Mule’ is the cinema equivalent to Imodium, in that it is a solid and consistent film.