DVD Review - Cut Snake (2015)

Sullivan Stapleton is very reminiscent of Russell Crowe in this movie. He has a very similar vibe, and a similar kind of look and body-type. His career is taking a different path than Crowe. Stapleton started the same and films like this and Animal Kingdom are proof he can be just as good. Stapleton is almost 15 years younger than the Oscar-winner though, so his career could veer into Crowe's prestigious lane, but right now he's become more of an action star. It's obvious why. Stapleton is an Australian beefcake whose roles in the series Strike Back or the film 300: Rise of an Empire prove how amazing a physical specimen he is.

However, the man is more than just his physique. He certainly captures the viewers' attention when he steps on screen. He's magnetic and exciting. Like with a lot of great actors, it's in the eyes and his eyes are gorgeous and captivating. So much obviously goes on behind those peepers, which director Tony Ayres definitely accentuates.

The first time we see Stapleton it's in a cool, tiny T-shirt and very short shorts. He looks not fresh out of prison but fresh from holiday. He does have a gruff aura about him, a devilish smile. He is also a bit scruffy. It's quickly revealed that he is quite hirsute, and his hairy, muscular, upper body seems to be an object of desire for Ayres' camera.

Sullivan Stapleton stars as Jim Stewart aka Pommie, a recently-released convict. It's 1974 on the east coast of Australia. A title says the setting is Sydney, but Pommie ventures out into the rural area looking for someone. He'll do anything to find and be with this person.

Alex Russell (Chronicle and Unbroken) co-stars as Merv Farrell aka Sparra, a young man who works in a small factory. He manufactures home goods and tools like broomsticks. He's even an apprentice to be a cabinet-maker. When we first see him, he is with the family of his girlfriend after announcing that they are getting married.

Jessica De Gouw (Arrow and Dracula) also co-stars as Paula, the aforementioned girlfriend who obviously loves Sparra but she doesn't seem to know much about her new fiance. She asks Sparra about his past, but he's reluctant to tell her. She sees that he is perhaps embarrassed or ashamed.

The person for whom Pommie searches is Sparra and the past that Sparra is reluctant to tell involves Pommie. That past isn't made clear or shown until half-way through the film, but it's obvious in Stapleton's eyes and the way he looks at Russell. Pommie finds Sparra and returns home with him. Pommie doesn't know that Sparra has a girlfriend and now fiancee, but it's apparent what he thinks about it when he looks at her shoes next to his bed or when she puts her arm around Sparra. Pommie's piercing eyes don't need to be the color green for one to understand what he's feeling.

Written by Blake Ayshford, the movie could have made this film as being highly homophobic. Sparra fears Pommie and that fear could have devolved into gay panic. Yet, it doesn't. One questions if Sparra has this fear, then why would he invite Pommie into his home. It's a mix of feelings. He senses a creeping danger, but there's a part of him that is open to Pommie. Perhaps, Sparra cares about him, but we're not sure why.

Ayshford's script then becomes a thriller of stirring up the past to push acknowledgment and acceptance of it, as well as being able to move on from it. Some people can move on from one's past. Others can not. The movie tests to see if Sparra and Pommie are one or the other.

Both men give great performances, a great, emotional push-and-pull. Eventually, the two build such heat that it's almost combustible. It's perhaps not surprising that a scene results in flames consuming the frame. It's tragic because it takes a hard road for the realization that love between two people sometimes isn't enough. It's not enough to ensure two people should be together.

It might seem anti, same-sex relations because the heat between the two men is fought and resisted until it reaches a breaking point. They might not live happily ever after, but the expression of love between the two men does ring loudly than anything else.

Russell gets the final beat to express that love, but Stapleton even through rage really shows that love too. Even in a way that seems contradictory, Stapleton is able to convey that sheer, unbridled love. It might be comparable to Fatal Attraction (1987) or Law of Desire (1987), except this doesn't revel in psychopathy and like HBO's Oz doesn't revel in the physical acts of intercourse between the two protagonists.

It's also reminiscent of Son of a Gun (2015), which also utilizes fellow young Australian, Brenton Thwaites. That movie substituted an outright, homosexual love with a more paternal love. This movie doesn't have elaborate stunts. It's quieter, more subtle. It's more devastating, more heartbreaking, and Stapleton is a revelation as we feel the devastation and heartbreak right along with him.

The movie premiered at the 2014 Melbourne International Film Festival. The Australian Writers Guild nominated it for its Awgie Award. It was released on DVD in the United States on October 26, 2015. Various down-under organizations like the Australian Film Critics Association, the Australian Film Institute and the Film Critics Circle of Australia all nominated Stapleton for Best Actor awards. Any accolades for him are absolutely deserved. In the meantime, check out Stapleton in the NBC series Blindspot.

Five Stars out of Five.
Rated R for violence, sexuality and language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 34 mins.


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