The 2010 Australian crime film The Square is one of the best thrillers that you’ve never seen. Tautly directed by Nash Edgerton (his brother Joel is one of the main characters and co-wrote the brilliantly layered screenplay), this shady and shifty neo-noir sits atop of the genre pack with titles such as Red Rock West, The Last Seduction, Blood Simple, and Bound – it’s a damn near flawless piece of cinematic screw-tightening and air-tight filmmaking. There is a confidence to this film that’s highly engrossing to observe, as right from the start, you know you’re in the hands of a filmmaker who knew exactly what he wanted. With twists coming left and right and all the way up until the end, The Square requires your attention, for which you’ll be handsomely rewarded. Spoiling any of plot’s surprises would be criminal, but the action centers on an unhappily married guy named Raymond (the gruff David Roberts), who is carrying on an affair with his beautiful young mistress named Carla (Claire van der Boom), who in turn is stealing from her mullet-sporting, low-life boyfriend, Billy (a skeevy and oily Joel Edgerton). When a plan to rob Billy goes haywire and unexpected deaths ensue, all hell breaks loose. Plus, Raymond is dealing with shady contractors at his construction site who may or may not know what Raymond has been up too with Carla.
Mysterious notes are sent, people are followed, chased, and killed, and more than one person gets shot. Nobody is safe in The Square. Not even the family pet. All of this is done with expert style and with a minimum of logic lapses and inconsistencies. And across the board, the acting is excellent, with Roberts and Boom registering strongly as two people who never should have met, let alone fallen in love. Mixing a De Palma-esque voyeuristic shooting style (be on the lookout for some amazing stedicam work) with gritty, hand-held realism, Edgerton ramps up the suspense in one scene after another, with maximum results by the conclusion. This is a genuinely unpredictable film that only the smartest genre enthusiasts will be able to guess before the end credits start rolling. Because there is so much going in within the plot during The Square, the film could have easily felt bogged down in exposition or gone off the rails into implausible realms, so it’s a testament to Edgerton’s writing and directing skills that the narrative never grinds to a halt, with the brisk pace complimenting the ruthless action sequences. The Square feels like an early Coen brothers film to me, reminiscent of Blood Simple, a movie totally in command of its story and style, made by people who love the genre they’re working in, and who want to wow people with a good old fashioned crime thriller. Films like this are in short supply.