The Mule passes muster as a dark comedy
For those who find humour in bodily functions, Australian dark comedy The Mule is a lot of fun, laced with killings and beatings and featuring strong performances.
That’s according to several critics who attended the world premiere at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas.
Co-directed by Tony Mahony and Angus Sampson, who plays one of the leads, the film is based on the story of a Victorian man who in 1983 is suspected of smuggling drugs back from Thailand. He’s locked in a hotel room by the cops who expect him to deliver the evidence within a day or so.
In Australia Entertainment One will release the film scripted by Leigh Whannell, Sampson and Jaime Browne, date to be confirmed.
Sampson plays the slow-witted Ray, who foolishly agrees to act as a drug mule for his friend Gavin ( Whannell), who is acting as a front man for local mobster Pat (John Noble from TV’s Fringe).
In Bangkok Gavin convinces him to swallow all the drug capsules but back in Australia he’s arrested and taken by two detectives (Hugo Weaving, Ewen Leslie) to an airport hotel while they wait for nature to take its course.
“A darkly amusing Australian comedy that deftly dwells on some of the more unpleasant physical side effects of being a drug smuggler, The Mule is an enjoyable mix of crime and dark laughs, littered with strong performances,” said Screen Daily’s Mark Adams. “At heart The Mule is a nicely staged period crime story – there are killings and beatings aplenty – but its genially tasteless dark humour gives it a real edge.
"Angus Sampson (who starred in Insidious and Insidious: Chapter 2) is great as the naïve but grimly determined Ray – a foolish man rather than a criminal – with his mission to keep his bodily functions at bay oddly honourable.”
Ain’t it Cool News reviewer Eric Vespe enthused. “The movie is super fun, really intense, shot well, performed well and pretty much checks off all the boxes that would qualify it as ‘good movie.’”
The Hollywood Reporter’s John DeFore observed, “While the film suffers from its own occasional sluggishness, it picks up as the lawmen watching our hero grow as strained as he is. An enjoyably nasty turn by Hugo Weaving, as the lead detective, both keeps the action alive and raises the film's commercial prospects with American fest and art-house audiences.”
However DeFore was less impressed with Sampson's performance, opining, "Playing Ray is a thankless task: For most of the film, Sampson has little to do beyond sweating, writhing on his bed miserably, and saying "no" to increasingly forceful demands that he co-operate."