In the latter stages of the Joel Edgerton-dominated Felony – he wrote, starred in and co-produced the film – tyro detective Jim (Jai Courtney) is in the home of Ankhila (Sarah Roberts), whose son is in a coma in hospital.
Jim stares at an elephant idol in the Indian woman’s home and as film ends the viewer is perhaps left to reflect on the importance of this scene.
Ganesha, the elephant head on a god’s body, is a Hindu symbol for protection, good luck, wisdom and fertility. The last has been provided as Ankhila has two children but the first three symbols are measured in various ways for her household and certainly for the other characters in this film about honesty and the extent to where a lie can lead.
Mal (Edgerton), drunk after a celebration with his policemen colleagues, is driving home when he knocks Ankhila’s son from his bike. Arriving at the scene are veteran detective Carl (Tom Wilkinson) and his new partner, Jim. Carl dismisses all younger hands from the near vicinity and coaches Mal in his story to ensure he is “first at the scene” rather than a suspect. This is but one of many examples of a holier than thou attitude that appears to pervade the NSW police force in Felony.
Jim is unconvinced of Mal’s innocence and begins to challenge Carl’s version of events while also becoming supportive of Ankhila when he visits the hospital.
Mal, who survived a gunshot wound during a drug raid earlier the previous day, is basically a good policeman, whose ‘good luck’ ran out the morning of the accident. He is filled with remorse and wants to confess the truth. However, to do so would implicate Carl, representing ‘protection’, who has already warned him that there can be no going back once the lie is told or they are both in very big trouble.
Admitting his guilt to his wife Julie (Melissa George) provides no release from the pressure as she surprisingly and selfishly wants Mal to continue the lie. Preservation of lifestyle and family security weigh more heavily than doing the right thing, even when Ankhila’s son dies without regaining consciousness.
‘Wisdom’ it appears comes only from Ankhila, who when confronted by a deeply remorseful and badly bleeding Mal and in the presence of ambulance and police officers, chooses not to accuse him of killing her boy. She has also provided ‘protection’ for Mal who admitted his guilt to her before the officers arrive. Ankhila’s attitude seems to be one of forgiveness for nothing can bring back Will.
Meanwhile the righteous Jim has to face his own moment of ill fortune when an angry tussle with Carl leads the to much older man collapsing and having a stroke. Mal, present at this meeting, takes the Carl role and tells Jim he will sort it out.
Carl’s stroke was one of the film’s few surprises but it was a good story well told and one would hope Edgerton writes more.
However, there were some disquieting moments:
* The side story of the paedophile and his girl friend seemed unnecessary except for promoting Carl’s anger and frustration when the accused man is bailed.
* The first drug raid scene lacked excitement and appeared to be included only so Mal could be hailed a hero (just a day before the road accident). As Mal lays back in shock and pain a fellow detective’s only concern for his well being is to ask Mal if he is all right, while remaining about 10 metres away.
*In a later traffic accident Mal runs into the back of a truck. Bleeding profusely from the face he staggers from his car with the offended truck driver only wanting to know why Mal ran into him. To the foreign viewer lack of compassion must seem a common Australian trait.
*When Mal rises from a sleep he chats to Julie in their house before going to the backyard where his young son’s birthday party is in progress. Surely his first action would be to wish the young fellow a happy birthday but this didn’t happen. Okay, it is Sydney and these people are policemen but his first act is to grab a beer and talk to his colleagues.
*The scene with the psychologist was pathetic. Who cast the bloody woman? I know a few psychs and they are some seriously weird dudes but this woman, as cast, wouldn’t have got a job in the myriad bureaucracy of Education Department WA.
Picky? Maybe? But these incidents irked me and detracted from some excellent performances, notably by Wilkinson who has never been in better form.