Swerve is as much a “thriller” as turkey bacon is bacon – and if you understand my feelings on bacon, you’ll know that turkey bacon is nothing but a cheap, farcical wannabe. Heading down under for Craig Lahiff’s latest film didn’t provide the exotic joys I wished for, as this imitation Coen brothers crime film fails to create the quirky, tense atmosphere it so reaches for. There’s guns, girls, and shrimp on the barbie, but nothing comes together in a very fun-filled way. This action ride feels like it’s gliding on cruise-control the whole time, with each twist and turn only being a minor speed-bump along the way. Yeah, this thing only goes from about 0 to 25, and takes a while to do so, circling the same track we’ve seen over, and over, and over, and over…you get my Tokyo Drift (SO MANY CAR PUNS!).
While driving down a dusty road, Colin (David Lyons) happens upon a car accident that leaves one man dead, a woman seemingly unharmed, and a bag full of money with no owner. Colin hands the money over to a local cop named Frank (Jason Clarke), but since his own car is damaged, the officer extends his guest room to the good Samaritan. Upon arriving at Frank’s home, he quickly realizes the law official is married to the same woman involved in the accident, Jina (Emma Booth), and from here things start to smell a little fishy. As time wears on, Colin realizes there’s a plan afoot, and as the secrets start to unravel, he begins to think that the car crash wasn’t an accident after all.
Swerve tries so hard to be this crazy thrill-ride that keeps us on our toes, and tires to do so with jovial entertainment in mind, but it’s never shocking or surprising enough to get us truly excited. Lahiff’s story is a tired one about a bag of money and the few people who want it, foiled time and time again by half-baked plotting and run-of-the-mill problems. Attempting to go out of the box, there’s the strange inclusion of this marching band competition referred to as a “Battle Of The Bands,” so we see random musicians walking about the streets in unison – but no crowds or anything. To top it all off, these marching bands didn’t lend any drama to the story, interrupting a car chase or something drastic, being nothing but a head-scratcher of an inclusion – much like the forced silliness of Lahiff’s screenplay.
On the action side of things, there’s not much to marvel at either. There are a few fight sequences, but for the type of thriller Swerve wants to be, there are certainly, again, some missed opportunities. Granted, I didn’t expect any Fast Five type action, but some heart-pounding car chases and prolonged fighting/shootouts would have done right to liven up the mood. Lahiff establishes these rough and tumble characters, but never properly puts them to work. Sure, it’s a more grounded take on the criminal thriller, but that’s not the atmosphere Lahiff is shooting for, as people get thrown down mine shafts and launched out of trains without much of a struggle. A few rousing moments of over-the-top action could have done Swerve some good, but instead the final product is far too tame.
You’ll recognize Jason Clarke from films like Zero Dark Thirty and Lawless, David Lyons from Revolution, and Emma Booth from Parker – all where they’ve done better work. Granted, the characters they’re portraying keep these actors coloring in between the lines, but again, Clarke’s character compared to Lyons and Booth has a hard time fitting in. He’s brutish, more flamboyant, and a bit comic like with his reactions, while Lyons and Booth play an obvious game of emotional tag. There are some notable Australian cameos, apparently, but on US viewers, these faces will be lost, and they’ll be just another bland character placed against the rugged, open outback.
This reviewing gig isn’t always fun, in fact sometimes it’s a damn chore. When a film is so bland sometimes, the words just don’t appear in front of you. Give me a masterful piece of cinema or a wasteful piece of trash and I’ll string together words like a journalistic version of the Tazmanian Devil, but give me some vanilla paste product I’ve seen over and over again, and this is about all I can muster. Swerve is such a film, leaving me blank, achy, and just tired of regurgitating the same complaints.
For the viewer, Swerve most certainly is the wrong turn, at the wrong place and at the wrong damn time.