Gettin’ Square is a comedy crime caper, set on Australia’s Gold Coast in Queensland. So rather than the dim, gloomy look that the Melbourne or Sydney based crime films have, this one is bathed in glorious sunshine. The characters even wear very bright coloured clothes, rather than the tailored black suits that seem to to the uniform de rigueur in these types of films. With the brighter colours comes a lighter film, that at times verges on outright comedy.
The film opens with a robbery. Four men, armed with shotguns, and their heads covered by balaclavas are in the back of a cabbed pick-up truck. The four men are Barry Wirth (Sam Worthington), Johnny Spitieri (David Wenham), Dennis Obst (Garry Waddell) and Lenny Morrison (John Brumpton). As the truck makes it’s way to the place where the robbery is to take place, a cassette, created by the criminal mastermind behind the operation plays, outlining each of the men’s objectives during the robbery.
The truck pulls up, and our four perpetrators hit an office block. Next we hear a gunshot, and then see Barry carrying out Johnny ‘Spit’, who has been shot in the chest. Apparently the manager had a gun hidden in the safe.
The film then cuts back to six months earlier. All four men were in prison, but each of them is up for parole. The parole hearings don’t go to well for them. Only Johnny Spitieri is released. As he packs his gear and says goodbye to Barry, he vows to ‘get square’ which in this instance doesn’t mean ‘seek vengeance’ but ‘go straight’.
Another bloke trying to go straight is Darren Barrington (Timothy Spall), known as ‘Dabba’ to his mates. Dabba runs a none-too-successful restaurant called the Texas Rose. As the restaurant is a money pit, Dabba’s legal advisor comes up with a scene, where they sell the property to developers for condominiums, but can buy in on the ground floor to set up a new revamped restaurant. The scheme will cost a few hundred thousand dollars, but that’s okay, because Dabba has some money squirreled away with his accountant Halliwell.
Back in prison, Barry receives a visit from bent copper, Arnie DeViers (David Field). DeViers is the cop who sent Barry away based on his false testimony. Obviously both men hate each others guts, and Barry isn’t too overjoyed to see him. But DeViers has news. Barry’s mother has died. DeViers hopes that the bad news will make Barry do something stupid, like throw a punch at him, and can be stitched up for a bit more time. But Barry plays it cool. In fact, his mother’s death helps to get him released.
You see, Barry has a younger brother Joey (Luke Pelger), and upon hearing about Barry’s mother’s death, the parole board, grant him early release to provide support and guidance for his younger sibling. The timing is good, because young Joey has fallen under the spell of two-bit gangster, Chicka Martin (Gary Sweet). Making things even messier, is that Martin has formed a business relationship with bent copper DeViers.
Meanwhile Dabba ends up with some legal problems, when Halliwell the accountant’s wife, finds her husband rooting around on her. As an act of vengeance, she tells the Criminal Investigations Commision (CIC) about her hubbie’s shady dealings and soon they come in and confiscate all his records. This trail of paperwork comes back to Dabba, and it looks like his new restaurant and condominium development has come crashing down.
Now on the outside, Barry is trying to find honest work. In prison he worked in the kitchen, so he tries to find work as a chef. But everywhere he goes, no-one wants to hire an ex-con. Eventually his path crosses Dabba’s and Barry ends up working as the chef at the Texas Rose. Of course, all these characters and connections lead to the robbery that opens the film.
As the Australian film industry is rather small, often you will see familiar faces in each film. Gettin’ Square is no different, and features many ‘old friends’ for viewers of Australian crime drama. Vince Colosimo isn’t in this one, but David Field fills the gap as the corrupt cop. Field had previously appeared in Ghosts Of The Civil Dead, Two Hands and Chopper. Another familiar face is Gary Sweet. Sweet who plays Chicka Martin in Gettin’ Square, played Chicka White in The Great Bookie Robbery. ‘Chicka’ appears to be a name that has stuck with him. He also appeared in Blue Murder; amongst many others.
Gettin’ Square is a great film, but I must admit, when I first watched it upon release, I was kinda disappointed. I wanted, and was expecting something a little harder. But if you accept that this film, and it’s characters are played as broad comedic stereotypes, then you’re going to have a very enjoyable time viewing this feature. David Wenham, who won a swag of awards for his performance, is particularly funny. His court appearance after the CIC subpoena him to appear, giving evidence against ‘Dabba’ is a great piece of physical acting. But overall, the acting by the ensemble cast is pretty good. As I mentioned earlier, the characters are broad comedic stereotypes, so it requires some solid acting to bring them to life, otherwise they simply be two dimensional cartoons. All in all, Gettin’ Square is an enjoyable feature.