Starring Angus Sampson, Hugo Weaving, John Noble, Leigh Whannell
One thing I can always count on at SXSW is the presence of good Australian film. I guess that reign came to an end this year with The Mule written and directed by Agnes Sampson. Purportedly based on an incredibly shocking true story, The Mule is both interesting and boring at the same time, how is that possible? You take a man who is so desperate to make money and agrees to carry drugs inside his system, but gets caught and refuses to defecate them out to the police… you could call this a belly-aching thriller, I guess. While there are some dark moments of humor, the whole film seems wrapped around this one single disgusting scene that has the entire audience looking away in disgust.
Ray Jenkins (Angus Sampson) has just been voted 1983’s “Clubman of the Year” by his Footie team, but he is unlikely to make the playoffs or continue his fancy footwork. A mama’s boy still living at home and kissing his mother goodbye every time he leaves the house. Ray is broke; he wants a better life and his best friend Gavin offers him a piece of the drug dealing business as a mule. Pick up the shipment in Bangkok, swallow 20 or so condom pouches, take some codeine to stop you up, and then release when back in Melbourne. This, of course, doesn’t happen, as Ray is so nervous he indicates suspicion to customs and is nabbed after he fails to retrieve his luggage. Special agent Croft (Hugo Weaving) detains Ray for seven days in a hotel according to the law, as they wait for the drugs to be released.
Both interesting and boring at the same time.
I wouldn’t be lying when I said this is a dirty film. That one scene I mentioned before is really all anyone is going to be talking about. The Mule moves at a very slow pace, and there isn’t enough acting talent or character development to keep my attention in the least. Weaving and fellow Lord of the Rings cast member John Noble provide the only recognizable faces to American audiences. Angus Sampson certainly provides unforgettable constipation faces for the audience to chew on. I learned more about Australia’s drug laws concerning law enforcement than anything else.
Don’t get me wrong, Weaving is as entertaining as usual, and certainly provides an initial reason to see the film. There just isn’t a great script or imaginative direction here to guide it anywhere very interesting. Australian films always seem to shed light on relationships, subject matter and lives from a different angle than American mainstream films. The Mule is focused on a specific subject matter, but it never goes full comedy or stays seriously dramatic and that fluid mixture doesn’t work thematically here.
Maintains single notoriety on one grotesque scene which isn’t enough to sustain an entire picture.