Synopsis: When an expat American Malloy (Ray Liotta) suffers a heart attack on the way to hijacking a heroin shipment in Australia, federal police later intervene and place his partner Mack (Dominic Purcell) in jail for three years. Mack relocates to the Gold Coast and leaves crime behind, hoping to marry his girlfriend (Vanessa Gray). But when Mack is released from prison, he finds Malloy and forces him to do one last big job...
Local revenge tale a dud.
The lack of creativity extends to the derivative plot, the clichéd characters, banal dialogue and pedestrian direction.
There’s zero originality in this limp Australian thriller, starting with the unexciting title: this is the fourth Bad Karma movie since 1991, according to imdb.com.
The lack of creativity extends to the derivative plot, the clichéd characters, banal dialogue and pedestrian direction. In short, this film has all the allure and production values of a cheap telemovie, despite the presence of Ray Liotta and Dominic Purcell.
Apart from the pay cheques, one can only guess what drew either actor to the soporific B-grade screenplay by Americans Aleve Mei Loh (her first credit) and Steve Allrich (his second after the obscure 2009 thriller The Canyon).
Equally hard to discern is any kind of vision or particular style from the English director Suri Krishnamma, who had a solid grounding in TV (Waking the Dead, Dalziel and Pascoe, Blue Murder, Cold Blood) but an indifferent track record in features since 1994’s A Man of No Importance.
Liotta is Jack Malloy, a coke-snorting, low-life American criminal who plans to steal a shipment of heroin from a Sydney hotel in cahoots with Australian thug Mack Yates (Purcell), who could be described as the brains of the operation if he had any intelligence. En route to the heist Malloy suffers a heart attack, crashes the car and wakes up in hospital.
Mid-robbery, Yates is caught by the cops and given a remarkably lenient jail sentence. Three years later Malloy is sober, law-abiding, working on building sites and living on the Gold Coast with his fiancée, Kelly (Vanessa Gray), who is unaware of his shady past.
Malloy is in a convenience store when Mack turns up and announces he wants to do one more job with his former partner. While Malloy is politely declining the offer Mack takes out his gun, shoots the guy behind the counter, forces Malloy to empty the till and for good measure slays an innocent woman who was trapped in the store.
Inexplicably Mack lets Malloy go home, only to later show up at his house claiming to be a friend named Garry. It’s soon clear that Mack intends to use blackmail as leverage. Events thereafter are highly predictable and the script is occasionally muddled and almost totally bereft of tension. Why, for example, would Mack tells his former crony that he’s the only one he trusts, yet accuse him of betraying him over the heroin job?
There are a couple of moments of unintended humour, as when Malloy is seen driving towards Kings Cross when he’s supposed to be heading to a hotel near Sydney Airport, and when he reads a newspaper headline which proclaims in large type, “Police chief says no new leads in shootings.”
The one-note characterisations can be summed up as Malloy: once bad, now trying mighty hard to go straight; Mack: vicious, cold-blooded killer and psychopath. Given those constraints and saddled with extremely dull dialogue, Liotta and Purcell deliver stilted performances. As the girlfriend, Gray is asked to do little more than appear devoted and supportive.
Aaron Pedersen has a thankless role as Bear, a workmate and ally of Malloy’s whose Aboriginal heritage is rather crudely emphasised.
It’s another poor career choice for Liotta after such duds as Observe and Report and Youth in Revolt. Arguably the actor peaked early in his career with roles in Something Wild, Field of Dreams and Goodfellas, and has never scaled such heights again.
After his breakthrough in TV’s Prison Break, Purcell has struggled to establish himself in films, not helped by appearing in The Killer Elite and Rod Lurie’s little seen remake of Straw Dogs.
This movie runs just 80 minutes; it feels much longer.
Watch Films Online
Films on SBS TV
SBS Film Guide to...
This December, we're celebrating Oz film by screening four classic titles.
Get ready to roar for our week-long fest of freaks and beasts.
Marc Fennell dabbles in the dark side, with a season devoted to Very Bad Deeds.