Australian cinema has its very own ‘Piss Christ’. In 1987 Andres Serrano upset the world with an image of Jesus Christ in urine. In 2014 Angus Sampson and Leigh Whannell want you to embrace a brilliant thriller about poo. The Mule of the film’s title is Ray, played by Sampson, who also had a hand in writing, directing and producing the movie. Affable everyman Ray is detained by Australian customs in 1983 on suspicion of having smuggling heroin, in condoms, in himself, from Thailand. As a result, and based in part on a true story, he finds himself face to face with the federal police in a hotel room for seven days – if he can hold in his poo, he wins. Seemingly a pawn at the outset, Ray slowly emerges as a classic Australian hero as all around him reveal their true, darker selves. Though he’s legally in the wrong, he is a good guy and soon we are barracking for him to hold it in just a little longer.
Hold in his poo that is. Yes poo. Repeated here as something of a warning, because while this is a taught thriller and a clever reflection on Australia’s own addiction to sport – Australia II’s Americas Cup finals form a metaphoric backdrop – this is also a film about poo. You will laugh at it. Squeal over it. Feel a bit like you got some on you. In that regard, but no other, this is like Kenny. Perfect poo comedy. Unlike that film, The Mule is also a visceral fast-paced thriller. Funny. Fraught. Faecal. It is so easy to pre-judge this. To dismiss it as an excuse to frolic in filth. The Mule is however deceptively clever. Terrifically twisting. And awesomely Australian.