Strap yourself in for a gritty thrill ride with Bring Him To Me, the latest offering from Australian director Luke Sparke. Filmed locally in Queensland but set in the seedy underbelly of America, this taut crime drama will have you white-knuckling your armrests right up until the final fade out.
Sparke, who cut his teeth on ambitious sci-fi spectacles like Occupation: Rainfall, teams up with first-time screenwriter Tom Evans to peel back the curtain on a heist gone wrong and the fallout that follows. At the wheel is Barry Pepper, channeling his inner McQueen as an enigmatic getaway driver simply known as “Driver.” He’s the stoic professional tasked by his ruthless crime boss (Rachel Griffiths rocking a chilling Boston accent) to deliver an oblivious young crew member named Passenger (newcomer Jamie Costa) to a remote location – and his certain demise.
Toggling between past and present, we unravel the backstory behind the compromised robbery and witness the moral dilemma unfold in real time as Driver balances his duty to the boss with a growing camaraderie with Passenger. Throughout their increasingly tense road trip, Pepper and Costa light up the screen with a chemistry that’s electric – think Gosling and Crowe in The Nice Guys minus the laughs.
Fans of taut, character-driven thrillers like No Country For Old Men will find plenty to enjoy in this gritty crime story propelled by stellar cast and an evocative, rain-slick visual style. So grab your popcorn, silence your cell phone, and get ready for a white-knuckle ride straight into the seedy underbelly. The journey may be familiar, but Pepper and Sparke rev this well-oiled engine into something special.
Buckle Up For A Bumpy Night
The skids are greased for some piston-pumping action right from the opening frames of Bring Him To Me. We dive headfirst into a brazen nighttime heist targeting a mafia money launderer named Frank (a sinister Sam Neill). But this ain’t their first rodeo – Frank’s prepared for trouble, quickly turning the tables on the masked bandits. After a scuffle, the crew scrambles to safety, frantically speeding off into the night with their rattled getaway driver (Barry Pepper) behind the wheel.
Trouble is, the take was light and their boss, a ruthless crime queenpin (Rachel Griffiths), ain’t exactly thrilled. Someone’s gotta take the fall for the botched job.
Enter our driver, who we’ll call Wheelman. A week later, Wheelman receives a cryptic call from the boss herself. She’s got a name, an address, and an order: collect the new kid from the heist crew and deliver him to a mysterious meeting spot. No questions asked.
The new recruit is a motor-mouthed young gun called Passenger (Jamie Costa), blissfully unaware he’s on Deck for a one-way trip six feet under. But Wheelman’s got his doubts. Get to know Passenger a bit during the long night ahead, and you’ll see he’s no rat. He’s just a single dad in over his head.
As the two cruise through the shadowy backstreets, Sparke takes us on a winding road of flashbacks, filling in the blanks on Passenger, Wheelman, and the team’s ill-fated robbery. Meanwhile in the present, Wheelman’s conscience starts throwing up red flags faster than a traffic cop. Is icing this kid really the righteous path?
Doesn’t help that their hog has attracted some unwanted attention. Frank ain’t the forgive and forget type. He’s hellbent on tracking down the men who made a mockery of him, sending his henchman and a fleet of motorbike goons to tail the dynamic duo through the rainy night.
With tension rising and the boss in his ear spurring him to hurry up and finish the deed, Wheelman struggles to drown out his conscience. But Passenger’s affable charm makes that task easier said than done. As the clock ticks down on their journey through the darkness, only one thing’s certain: the road ahead is paved with life-or-death choices.
When the keys are finally turned off and the dust settles, where will Wheelman’s moral compass point him? Will the boss get her wish, or will Passenger’s luck hold out for another day? Either way, the final stop on this white-knuckle thrill ride promises to jolt audiences like a shot of nitrous oxide.
A Fork in the Road
At its core, Bring Him To Me is fueled by the moral dilemma simmering under Wheelman’s stoic facade. Whether to follow orders and ice Passenger, or take a stand for what’s right – that choice eats at him more ravenously than rust on a ’68 Charger.
Wheelman’s lived a lifetime on the criminal coil. He’s a pro, knowing the rules of the road and his role in this lawless world. But over the course of one rainy night, Passenger’s infectious optimism picks the lock on Wheelman’s conscience.
Like a yin and yang symbol, the two men balance each other – innocence and experience, light and dark, hope and cynicism. As their journey stretches on, Passenger’s earnest openness transforms Wheelman’s perspective. He sees life through Passenger’s eyes – a world of possibility where doing right by your loved ones trumps blind loyalty to crooked powers that be.
At each new turning point, Wheelman must weigh his dignity against duty, sympathy against survival. To protect Passenger would breach the outlaw code he’s followed for years. But handing him over like a lamb to slaughter don’t sit right in Wheelman’s gut no more.
Sparke steers us through this moral maze using brisk flashbacks that uncover formative moments from the men’s past. We learn what shaped them into the people fate now pits against each other.
This trip down memory lane ties back to the film’s themes of loyalty and trust. What do you owe to friends versus family? Can you betray one to protect the other? Wheelman’s soul-searching seems destined to culminate in an existential standoff where his true priorities will be tested.
And Pepper navigates each hairpin turn in Wheelman’s psyche masterfully, conveying internal conflict through subtle shifts in his thousand-yard stare.
Beyond the moral quandary, Sparke and Evans lace their script with plenty of cat-and-mouse suspense. Drawing inspiration from ’70s chase films, they use moody lighting and rain-slicked roads to evoke both intimacy and isolation between the leads. The atmosphere simmers and drips with noir-ish dread, promising darker turns ahead.
So buckle up for a thought-provoking thrill ride down the dimly lit back roads of morality. Wheelman’s path may be paved with tough choices, but his journey promises to illuminate some universal truths.
Polished Execution Despite Modest Means
Considering its humble budget, the production polish Sparke brings to Bring Him To Me punches well above its weight class. Constraints often breed creativity, and that ethos serves this film well at every gritty turn.
Sparke wrings tons of tension from the minimalist setup – two men, one car, and the lonely road ahead. Through shadowy cinematography and an evocative synth score, he infuses the nighttime driving scenes with a stifling claustrophobia. And when action erupts, Sparke delivers the thrilling goods on a tight leash.
Nimble editing intercuts between the drive and vital flashbacks, teasing out backstory to stoke mystery. And performances are uniformly solid, compensating for occasional clunky dialogue. Pepper brings nuance and depth to his brooding antihero, while Costa’s spirited charm energizes their scenes together.
Working with available locations around Australia, Sparke ably conjures the atmosphere of America’s underbelly. Continuity occasionally suffers given the budget, but it’s never immersion-breaking. And while certain effects betray their modest means, Sparke wisely keeps them sparse and secondary.
Overall, Bring Him To Me displays an impressive mastery of fundamentals – pacing, tone, character. A polish and restraint belying the resources at hand. The strong vision and execution suggest greater things ahead for Sparke and his team. Given its constraints, the film delivers as a tense, focused genre piece with flair to spare.
A Cast That Crushes It
At its core, Bring Him To Me succeeds or fails based on the strength of its central duo – and Pepper and Costa absolutely crush their roles as Driver and Passenger.
Pepper faces the tougher task, imbuing the brooding strong-silent type with nuance and vulnerability. He conveys volumes through subtle shifts in his thousand-yard stare. And when dialogue arises, Pepper handles the pulpy hard-boiled lines with aplomb. We believe him completely as a principled tough guy, softened over time by circumstance.
As his gregarious, motormouthed counterpart, Costa counters Driver’s coiled intensity with endearing humor and upbeat energy. He delivers reams of dialogue with the natural cadence of a Robin Williams improv riff. And while initially grating, Costa deftly pivots to win our sympathy once we understand Passenger’s innocence.
Together, this odd couple clicks and sparks off each other beautifully. We invest in their burgeoning camaraderie and the simmering question of Driver’s intent. Will he protect or betray the young pup fate has placed in his path?
Strong turns from Neill and Griffiths season the smaller but pivotal roles. Neill exudes menace with minimal effort. And Griffiths squeezes the pulp from her domineering crime boss. Her scenes mostly come by phone, but she leaves a lasting mark.
The supporting cast all excel in their dimension-adding parts, from henchmen to crew members to incidental characters. Special props go to Liam McIntyre as a colorful heavy on Frank’s payroll.
In films of this vintage, performances can easily slip into parody. But deft direction and evident rapport between the players yields authenticity and depth. This cast breathes life into archetypes, elevating standard genre fare. We’ll certainly see more down the road from Costa and Sparke’s creative crew.
An Impressive Thrill Ride With Heart
At first glance, Bring Him To Me may seem like another drop in the ocean of gritty crime thrillers. But solid execution and soulful performances help this Australian genre entry stand out from the pack.
Led by Pepper’s nuanced work as the conflicted Driver, Sparke transcends the B-movie trappings to deliver a thoughtful character study nestled within pulpy plotting. He crafts a tangible atmosphere through rain-slick roads and a moody synth score. And practical chases and shootouts hit the adrenaline sweet spot for action fans.
The script hits a few potholes, with spotty dialogue and familiar story beats. But Sparke’s stylish direction, coupled with the genuine rapport between Pepper and Costa, elevates the material at every turn. Like Driver’s growing conscience, the film’s heart sneaks up on you.
As both director and champion of homegrown genre films, Sparke continues to impress. Bring Him To Me displays his growing command of fundamentals on a modest budget. The film delivers a gratifying blend of slow-burn dramatic tension and explosive set pieces.
It may not rewrite the rule book, but Bring Him To Me stands tall as a taut, affecting thriller fueled by stellar cast and craft. The ride offers just enough fresh detours from the usual road to make it worth taking again. So buckle up and enjoy the scenery. Where it takes you may surprise you.
Bring Him To Me
Bring Him To Me transcends its genre trappings through strong direction and soulful performances, delivering a thoughtful, affecting thriller. Pepper and Sparke elevate the familiar narrative with nuance and style.
- Strong lead performances from Barry Pepper and Jamie Costa
- Moody atmosphere and stylish direction by Luke Sparke
- Creative editing intercuts past and present
- Tense car scenes build claustrophobia
- Solid supporting turns by Sam Neill and Rachel Griffiths
- Thoughtful themes regarding morality and loyalty
- Plot follows some standard crime thriller tropes
- Occasional weak dialogue
- Low budget leads to minor continuity/effects issues
- Ending is ambiguous and open-ended
- Some actors struggle with American accents