Overview: Three detectives deal with the aftermath of a tragic hit and run involving a nine year old boy. Benaroya Pictures, Blue-Tongue Films, Goalpost Pictures, and Screen Australia; Not Rated, 105 minutes.
The Gray: Unlike most police procedural dramas, the plot of Felony doesn’t revolve around solving a crime or catching the bad guy. This film approaches its plot in reverse order, providing viewers with a firsthand look at the crime committed within the opening ten minutes of the run time. After it hits the ground running, the pace slows abruptly, relying on tension, dialogue (which is as sharp as any I’ve seen this year), and the exchange of heated glances to maintain the momentum and intensity. Director Matthew Seville takes this opportunity to tell a different story, one that has no heroes or villains, but rather one that examines the gray area surrounding the mistakes we make and how we deal with the aftermath. It’s not a mystery or suspense thriller, it’s a character study that just so happens to examine police officers. Felony asks the question: What’s the right thing to do when a good person does something terrible? And the most frustrating as well as the most compelling thing about this question, though, is that we’re not given an answer.
The Black and White: Felony gives viewers a balanced, gritty look at the way three different men handle themselves when faced with a moral dilemma, and not one of them emerges unscathed. The success of this film relies heavily on the performances of the three men in question: Tom Wilkinson (Detective Carl Summer), Joel Edgerton (Mal Toohey), and Jai Courtney (Jim Melic). Wilkinson brings a taut, explosive presence, making no qualms about his disdain and mistrust for the justice system he’s seen fail one too many times. Melic’s restrained performance is contemplative and observant as the assured newbie crusader, touting his moral compass and boasting his ethical superiority. But it’s Edgerton’s portrayal as a proclaimed hero wrecked by guilt and remorse that creates the gray area this film lives in for an hour and a half. His humanity and vulnerability makes it impossible to see him as a villain even after the devastating consequences of his crime are fully realized. The actions and reactions of each of these men are what make Felony a haunting and realistic story crime drama that will stick with you long after the credits roll.