This may be my favorite movie so far at SXSW Film. Well it’s hard to pick one, but it’s up there. It’s reminiscent of the anxiety felt from Midnight Express (1978) with the Soundtrack straight out of the 80’s. It’s a gritty film that doesn’t disappoint with where it ends up.
Co-written, Co-directed, and starring Angus Sampson (Actor from Insidious 1&2), this film is pretty brutal in multiple senses of the word. A theme that seems to keep creeping up during SXSW so far, is showcasing dark subject matter with humorous (intentional or not) devices thrown into the mix. I don’t want to call The Mule a dark comedy, but it definitely has dark tones. This is the second impressive film I’ve witnessed thus far from Australia (The Infinite Man reviewed earlier as another must see).
Angus Sampson’s character, a simple sap working at a television repair shop in 1980’s Melbourne Australia, is tasked with heading to Bangkok, Thailand with his oldest friend to smuggle back heroin by swallowing 20 condoms filled with the white dust. He gets himself into a pickle (this is where the anxiety from Midnight Cowboy comes in to play) in an intense scene where he has to get through customs successfully. Well let’s just say, things end belly up and he is detained by the police unofficially for more than 10 days. The police want him to work out his crap, literally.
The Mule is full of betrayal, suspense, and a little bit of mayhem, but Hugo Weaving (The Matrix, The LOTR Trilogy) has to be the best contribution to the film. Playing one of the detectives in charge of watching Sampson’s character in a hotel for the 10+ days, he has never unfolded a character to discover such a likable sleazebag.
The Mule will get laughs, but even with the fat trimmed away, it is a fantastic film at its core to uncover a compelling story about drug trafficking and the underbelly of Melbourne and its corruption. The direction and acting alike is very top notch and again, I have to say that this is a must see at SXSW. If for nothing else, there is one revolting scene in the The Mule that made me look away which is always a feat for someone with an iron stomach. Get out and see it and you won’t be sorry. Dig the music playing at the credits.