Film Review: Swerve

Drug money leads to a deadly chase in this stripped-down Outback thriller.

Shot in 2010 and just now receiving a release here, Swerve is an elemental film noir that ties a dupe, a cop and a femme fatale to a briefcase of hot money. With a workmanlike, if unoriginal, plot, the movie still feels padded at under 90 minutes. Swerve will gain more traction on late-night cable than in theatres.

Right from the beginning—with an explosion and decapitation that have little bearing on the outcome—writer-director Craig Lahiff opts for thrills over credibility. Responding to a car crash outside the tiny desert town of Neverest, Good Samaritan Colin (David Lyons) finds a briefcase stuffed with cash and Jina (Emma Booth), a blonde fleeing an abusive marriage.

Colin drops the briefcase off with Frank (Jason Clarke), a cop exiled to Neverest from the big city after an unspecified lapse. Turns out Jina was running away from Frank, but Colin doesn't find out they're married until he's spending the night in the couple's home. Meanwhile, Charlie (Travis McMahon), a hit man, leaves a trail of corpses as he tracks down the missing money.

The loot will switch hands several times as Jina works her wiles on Colin and Frank tries to engineer a getaway. That means lots of shots of cars driving back and forth from town, as well as some preposterous complications that are frankly irritating.

The sunbaked settings, nicely shot by David Foreman, are a novelty at first, but end up contributing very little to the actual story. Odd touches like a marching-band competition take up time without adding to the plot. Swerve boils down to a series of double-crosses anyone can see coming for miles.

Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty) is suitably menacing as Frank, an untrustworthy presence from the start. So is Vince Colosimo as a sleazy businessman who's been dogging Jina. But Booth and Lyons are too lightweight to hold up their end of the movie. In most thrillers, they'd be early casualties.

Working with obviously limited funds, Lahiff manages to build some suspense in the opening scenes. But the low budget takes its toll later on, especially in some blurry night footage and during a notably weak car chase.

Almost all the parts of Swerve—the predictable storyline, thin cast and flaccid action—feel worn-out and second-hand. They still work, but they're not much fun to watch.