Some things can’t be buried
Raymond Yale is a softie who gets caught up in a hard-boiled scenario – the kind where an ordinary man is hijacked by an extraordinary emotion, with disastrous consequences.
The setting for his misadventures, however, is a long way from Raymond Chandler’s mean streets or the small towns and roadside diners that feature in the stories of James M. Cain, Jim Thompson or the other masters of American pulp fiction; the moral dilemmas that overtake Ray (David Roberts) are played out beside a sunlit river in the outer suburbs of Sydney. He has a jetty at the end of his lawn, magpies outside his window, a comfortable house and a pretty wife. The trouble is that he doesn’t love her.
In fact, he suffers from a chronic case of domestic dissatisfaction and the events that flow from his discontent have been shaped into a tight little thriller in which each piece clicks together with an unnerving inevitability.
It all begins when Ray falls for Carla (Claire Van Der Boom), who’s young, beautiful and unhappily married to Smithy (Anthony Hayes), a tow-truck driver with a macho disposition and a gang of unsavoury friends who favour tattoos and mullets, and meet regularly across the poker table. Yet Smithy has his tender spots. He loves his dog – and, yes, his wife, too.
When she spies him hiding something in the laundry ceiling, she’s quick to investigate in a scene that clearly displays director Nash Edgerton’s familiarity with the mechanics of suspense. Smithy is in the shower when Carla takes a ladder and climbs up to see what she can find. Then the doorbell rings and the next couple of minutes unroll with such meticulous attention to small details – the click of a door handle, the scraping of metal on cement – that you find yourself forgetting to breathe.
Carla wastes no time in telling Ray about her discovery, which turns out to be a bag packed with banknotes. It is, she tells him, their passport to a new life together. When he looks appalled and says no, she walks out on him. Naturally, he thinks again. He’s in love and we’ve already seen what that means, for he’s making his own efforts to find some escape money. He’s in charge of a construction site and he’s started taking kickbacks from a crooked contractor. But it’s a slow-growing stash and Carla isn’t willing to wait.
Naturally, poor Ray has the most to lose. With his straight-arrow looks and habitual earnestness, he comes across as the man least likely to commit a crime of passion yet once the dominoes start to fall, he is quick to realise that there’s no going back. And from then on, his conscience becomes a luxury he can’t afford.
– Sandra Hall, The Sydney Morning Herald