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Quint checks out Aussie drug thriller THE MULE starring Hugo Weaving at SXSW 2014!


Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with another little SXSW 2014 review. This time I'm taking a look at Aussie crime comedy THE MULE. I've noticed a trend at SXSW this year. The movies seem to have a strong influence on my psyche. Chef made me hungry for grilled cheese sandwiches and The Mule really, really made me really want to take a shit.

Not too many movies can take that particular series of words as a compliment, but in the case of The Mule it's a huge one.

Based on a true story, the flick is set in the early '80s and is about a not-so-bright dude (Angus Sampson, who also co-directed) who is convinced to become a drug mule... just once, mind you. He's a TV repairman and is way slow on the uptake, but he agrees and ends up getting caught at customs on his way back from Bangkok.

He overhears that he doesn't have to admit to any wrong-doing and the longest the cops can hold him is 5 days. So, the best way to ensure his freedom is simply not to give the police their evidence. Yes, that means he has to hold in his poop.

But things start spiraling out of control quickly. The detectives are a bit “hands on” and are led by a scenery-chewing hardass played by the great Hugo Weaving. The rightful owner of the drugs (John Noble) kind of begins to want his product back, as you would expect. His former friends start considering assassination while he's in custody in order to save their own asses. And, worst of all, a crooked judge keeps extending the amount of time he can be held. All this as he damn near destroys his body to keep any incriminating evidence in his digestive tract.

Just when you think they've exhausted any and all possible angles, directors Sampson and Tony Mahony push on in some inventive and in a few instances awfully disgusting areas. There's a particular scene that had the audience screaming “No!” at the screen. You know a movie is pushing the right buttons when it gets that kind of reaction from its crowd.

It was so smart that Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson got Hugo Weaving and John Noble in this picture. Both are men who can chew scenery and while they never share a scene they end up tag-teaming the movie. You'll get 5 minutes of crooked, asshole detective and then 5 minutes of charming, but scary drug lord and then back to Weaving again. It works really well and keeps the pace rocking throughout.

That's the trick with this film. So much of it takes place in one location (a hotel room), but it never feels unintentionally claustrophobic. It never had me checking my watch. And when the end finally comes there's a fantastic moment of release, which brings us back to the movie making me really want to take a dump. Maybe it won't effect you the same way, but I'm the kind of guy that finds himself holding his breath when characters are under water in films, so I guess my empathy really kind of backfired on me with this one.

Thankfully, when the lead character finds his eventual relief I didn't feel all torn up inside. No longer did I feel like I had just eaten two day old Chipotle. This doesn't end with some crazy real life poo story, don't worry. I don't know where I'm going with this, but cut me some slack. I'm tired.

What I was saying, before I went down that rabbit hole of Golgathan proportions, is that the movie is super fun, really intense, shot well, performed well and pretty much checks off all the boxes that would qualify it as “good movie.”

We good? Cool. Be back soon with some more SXSW stuff, including possibly a little video game action. Heading to the Titanfall launch party at the fest tonight. We'll see what's up.

-Eric Vespe
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