While this decision by the The Mule handlers has been the subject of prolonged discussion, what should not be overlooked is the consistent strength, cunning conviction and clever execution of the movie.
The year is 1983. An Australian tourist returning from a footy trip in Thailand has been detained by security.
There is reason to believe that the burly gentleman with the pants around his ankles and a torchlight illuminating his posterior might be carrying drugs of some kind.
As it turns out, Ray Jenkins (Angus Sampson) is indeed transgressing the law. Lodged in the stomach of this decorated clubman and lifelong mamma’s boy is a kilo of pure heroin.
Here is where the situation gets messy — and because The Mule is based on true events — here is where it also gets truly fascinating.
Ray is quite within his rights not to submit to an X-ray. However, the cops are entitled to hold Ray under room arrest in a cheap hotel until, umm, nature takes its course.
According to the legal fine print of the era, if the drugs leave Ray’s person within seven days, it is jail time for a long time to come. But if Ray can stay in a state of suspended self-constipation for a full week, the fuzz have to let him go.
No further questions asked. No further action possible.
Though there is a decidedly comic angle to this surreal standoff, The Mule is really a whip-smart crime film with an air of menace and a sly take on suburban Australian life that demands to be taken seriously.
Some fine acting from Sampson (who co-wrote and co-directed) in a deceptively difficult lead role allows the film to stealthily switch gears between the light and the dark when least expected.
Pinch-hitting powerplays from the likes of Hugo Weaving and Ewen Leslie (as police detectives doing their utmost to quite literally give Ray the sh-ts), Leigh Whannell (Ray’s dodgy best mate) and Noni Hazlehurst (Ray’s domineering mum) ensures The Mule never buckles under the weight it must carry.
*The Mule premieres on all major digital streaming platforms (iTunes, etc) from Friday Nov 21. DVD and Blu-ray releases on Dec 3.
> THE MULE [MA15+]
Directors: Tony Mahony, Angus Sampson
“Has he got the guts to last a week?”