Review by Jude Felton
The makers of the Australian film, Crawl, are definitely from the school of thinking where less is more. It’s a slow-burning movie that is in no good hurry to get to where it’s going, and for the most part is does actually work. How much enjoyment you get from this modern day noir though, will all depend on your levels of patience, because believe me, Crawl is in no hurry to get anywhere.
Set in a small town, the follows a twisted tale of murder and unfortunate circumstance, with a Croation hit man being hired by a sleazy bar owner to kill a longtime friend over a shady deal. This all goes down without a hitch, so to speak, and is revealed in the opening scene. It is what comes next that throws a spanner in the works, as the hit man, through a quirk of fate, ends up as the residence of Marilyn; who just so happens to work at the same bar that is owned by Mr. Sleaze. She’s at home awaiting the arrival of the love of her life, but instead gets a visit from the hit man.
Part noir, part home invasion movie, Crawl is the type of movie that does require a certain amount of patience in which to enjoy it. It is more concerned with slowly setting up the plot, than actually delivering what you might expect to happen, and at times can be a little frustrating. There are quite a view violent scenes, some of which are bone-crunchingly violent, which are offset by some strangely comedic moments; most of which involve the bar owner.
The film itself is a very well shot piece of cinema, with director Paul China having a good eye for style and shot design, and as such bodes well for the future, with this being his debut movie. Where Crawl could have been improved would have been in the pacing of the film. It’s all good and well to have a slow-burning movie, but for this to work well, especially in a thriller, is for the tension to constantly be building up. Now, whilst it does build to a certain degree, the pacing and long scenes, where not too much happens, tend to take the viewer outside of the action, rather than draw them in. When the shit goes down, it goes down well, it’s just a case of a little tightening up here and there.
The cast here all give pretty solid performances, with George Shevtsov giving a subtle and brooding outing as the killer of few words. Georgina Haig is also convincing as the love-struck Marilyn, whose life takes a turn for the worst.
Overall, there is a lot to recommend about Crawl, but at the same time a lot of the good work is undone by some of the film’s negative aspects. It is certainly a decent, yet flawed outing, and as such should be approached with a certain element of caution. When Crawl works, it works very well indeed, such as a car crash aftermath and the later scenes in Marilyn’s house, but you also have to balance this against some of the film’s pacing issues.
Crawl falls into that grey area where I didn’t love it, yet neither did I hate it. I could definitely see where the film worked, and what the filmmakers were trying to achieve, yet it was all too apparent to see the movie’s shortcomings as well. If you enjoyed the 2010 movie Red Hill, which is also a dark Australian thriller, you will probably enjoy Crawl. Whilst not quite as accomplished as Patrick Hughes film, it does share a few similarities and is certainly cut from the same cloth. With Crawl though it is definitely a case of good, but could have been far better.
Crawl is released today (February 25) on Blu-ray and DVD by Arrow Films.