The Mule
"The Smuggler blends scatological humour, brutal violence and a few scenes that will put you right off your popcorn into something that is actually rather good."

The Mule - now being released on VOD and DVD/Blu-ray in the UK as The Smuggler - harks back to the Ozploitation films of the Seventies and Eighties. Like many of those films it revels in a certain crassness that exists in Australian culture. Television repairman and mediocre amateur sportsman Ray Jenkins (Angus Sampson) isn't the sharpest tool in the toolbox. He is exploited by his boss, his friend Gavin (Leigh Whannell) and by those who should have his best interests at heart. Gavin persuades Ray to travel with him to Thailand to act as a mule for a Kilo of heroin. Ray's ineptitude on his return to Australia gets him lifted at the airport. The authorities can hold him for for a maximum of seven days. So stuck in a hotel room with three cops (Hugo Weaving, Ewen Leslie, Glenn Arrowsmith) and a Kilo of heroin in his guts, all Ray has to do is last seven days without taking a shit. Meanwhile, outside the hotel, Ray's world descends into a spiral of violence.

The film blends scatological humour, brutal violence and a few scenes that will put you right off your popcorn into something that is actually rather good. Perhaps it is the quality of the acting, the twisting plot or the pacing of the film and the way in which it constantly increases tension by weaving together black humour, violence and footage from the Australia II competing in the America's Cup that makes it work. Or maybe, as with many of the best genre films, it's the way it hides something deeper and more complex beneath the sensational.

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At the heart of the film is the way it addresses the place of competition in Australian society, and the coupling of sport and national identity. Most of the characters are where they are in the film as a result of the games that they are playing. The central battle of wills between Ray and the cops is flanked by other, smaller games. The film is punctuated with reporting of the 1983 America's Cup where against the odds the crew of the Australia II eventually smashed the New York Yacht Club's 132 year winning streak. Also like a number of recent offerings, particularly horror films like Wolf Creek 2, Wyrmwood and Crawl, it plays with unpalatable cultural stereotypes around masculinity and class.

The Smuggler has a fairly slow start rather lacking in laughs. It is in fact rather grim. The film isn't a straight out comedy, it's a thriller with tolet humour. Despite this, it develops into something highly entertaining.

Reviewed on: 02 Apr 2015
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A naïve drug mule in police custody who’s swallowed heroin pellets fights the urge to expel the evidence as mobsters and corrupt cops close in.

Director: Angus Sampson, Tony Mahony

Writer: Jaime Browne, Angus Sampson, Leigh Whannell

Starring: Hugo Weaving, Angus Sampson, Leigh Whannell, Ewen Leslie, Geoff Morrell, Georgina Haig, Noni Hazlehurst, John Noble, Nick Farnell, Chris Pang, Lasarus Ratuere, Marsha Vassilevskaia

Year: 2014

Runtime: 103 minutes

Country: Australia

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