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Review: 'Son of a Gun' gets worse as it goes along

A promising prison drama turns into a wan romance in this Australian thriller.
Son of a Gun

Ewan McGregor and Brenton Thwaites break out of prison and go on the lam in "Son oA24

‘Son of a Gun’
Director:
Julius Avery
Stars: Brenton Thwaites, Ewan McGregor
Rating: R
2 (out of 5) Globes

“Son of a Gun” is a shape-shifter, which is too bad: It really only knows how to do one genre well. There’s a pretty good prison saga here, one which gets rudely interrupted by an unimaginative prison break followed by a flaccid romance. But at least the prison part works. Brenton Thwaites, a young actor typecast as earnest kids, again plays an earnest kid, JR, who’s thrown into a scary Australian jail that promises to destroy his perfect face. Luckily he befriends Brendan (Ewan McGregor), a noted criminal who takes a shine to him and spares him from the advances of a bevy of rapists.

Nothing here is spectacular, but it hits the usual notes with a steady hand. And then, like its protagonists, it gets antsy, and the action moves elsewhere, putting JR and Brendan on the lam, hooking up with some ne’er-do-well crime lords and looking out for that tired one last score. JR has the misfortune of falling in love with a protected woman (Alicia Vikander), which jeopardizes their operation but really only succeeds at turning a promising film dull. McGregor does his best to keep things in line, which is to say by staying intense and loose cannon. While Thwaites is, as in “The Signal” and “The Giver,” painfully sincere, McGregor is thrillingly unpredictable — paternal one second, an abusive father the next. In a just world “Son of a Gun” would have ditched the son part entirely for the world of fascinating adults.

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge

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