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The Square: Aussie neo-noir



The Square recalls one of cinema's all-time classic lines, that moment in 1981's Body Heat when Kathleen Turner's femme fatale Matty Walker studies William Hurt's gullible Ned Racine and declares, "You're not too smart, are you? I like that in a man." The Square's Carla Smith (Claire van der Boom) isn't clever -- or evil -- like Matty, but Ray Yale (David Roberts) is an even bigger clod than Ned. He's like the Inspector Clouseau of reluctant criminals, bumbling his way through an ill-conceived plan and accidentally causing someone's death every time he turns around.

An Australian neo-noir directed by Nash Edgerton and written by his brother Joel Edgerton and Matthew Dabner, The Square is one of the few twisty thrillers of recent vintage that manages to keep audience members happily off-balance. The setup is basic: Lower-class Carla discovers a hidden satchel of money belonging to her thuggish husband (Anthony Hayes) and talks her married lover Ray, a well-to-do architect, into helping her steal it so that they can split town and live happily ever after. They hire an arsonist (Joel Edgerton, handing himself a plum role) to burn down the Smith household to conceal the theft, but because the thieving couple are strictly amateur hour, matters take a deadly turn right from the start.

The film's screenplay is a fine construction, full of memorable characters as well as throwaway lines that eventually figure into the proceedings (oh, that poor dog!). The ingenuity extends to the title, which harbors at least three distinct meanings. And at the center of it all is hapless Ray, merely the latest in a long line of cinematic losers who learn the hard way that crime doesn't pay. But we shouldn't be too hard on the guy: When the biggest twist arrives near the end of the film, we realize we've been as snookered as Ray.

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