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By Merle Bertrand | March 25, 2003

Prisons are supposed to perform two roles for our society. On the one hand, they’re supposed to remove dangerous criminals and other undesirables from our streets, while simultaneously reforming them into productive members of the community. The reality, of course, is drastically different, as prisons more often than not function as universities of crime where inmates learn new techniques, exchange illicit knowledge, and make new “business” contacts. Sometimes, as in the case of “The Hard Word,” those contacts include the powers that be.
The Twentyman brothers have certainly learned how to manipulate the system. Led by their hard-bitten oldest brother Dale (Guy Pierce), younger brothers Shane (Joel Edgerton) and Malcolm (Damien Richardson) already have a line on an armored car hit once they’re released from prison. Orchestrating the job — and their release from prison — is the brothers’ sleazy GQ lawyer Frank (Robert Taylor), who, unbeknownst to Dale, is having an affair with his sultry wife, Carol (Rachel Griffiths). All seems good when the hit goes off as planned, until Frank double-crosses them and they wind up back in the slammer.
Yet, when the job to end all jobs presents itself, Frank knows that only the brothers are good enough to pull it off…while the brothers reluctantly agree to participate, while planning all along to exact their revenge.
Director Scott Roberts has crafted a raw and darkly comic action thriller in “The Hard Word.” Set in Australia, this rock ’em, sock ’em tug of war is a solid bit of nasty fun from Down Under. It’s the kind of unpretentious flick at which film snobs who refuse to see anything but “art” films would disdainfully sniff their noses. Too bad for them, because they’d be missing a sexy, superbly crafted potboiler with well-rounded, entertaining characters, tons of sharply scripted action, and a brassy, sassy soundtrack that hearkens back to the spy thrillers of yesteryear.
The best thing about this film is this: “The Hard Word” doesn’t promise more than it can deliver…but, like the Twentyman brothers themselves, it delivers everything that it promises, and more.

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