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Originally published Thursday, April 22, 2010 at 3:04 PM

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Movie review

'The Square': Shape of things to come from first-time director Nash Edgerton?

Newbie director "Nash Edgerton" has a few tricks up his sleeve in "The Square." A review by Seattle Times movie critic Moira Macdonald.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review2.5 stars

'The Square,' with David Roberts, Claire van der Boom, Joel Edgerton, Anthony Hayes, Peter Phelps and Bill Hunter. Directed by Nash Edgerton, from a screenplay by Joel Edgerton and Matthew Dabner. 110 minutes (including Nash Edgerton's 9-minute short film "Spider," screening before "The Square"). Rated R for violence and language. Varsity.

"It's nice to have something to do," says a cop in the throes of an investigation, easily the cheeriest person in Nash Edgerton's Australian noir "The Square." "Bit of a fire, bit o' death, now this."

Indeed, there's a bit of everything in "The Square," so much so that after a while it starts to feel generic. There's the adulterous couple, Ray and Carla (David Roberts, Claire van der Boom), sneaking around in hotel rooms away from their spouses' eyes. There's the plan to steal a mysterious cache of money acquired by Carla's boorish husband, and the arsonist hired for a job with unexpected consequences, and the arsonist's strangely terrified girlfriend, and the financial improprieties surrounding Ray's business, and a dog who keeps showing up uninvited, and, eventually, murder. Oh, and a scene where somebody tries to wash blood from his hands.

This is a whole lotta noir, and it goes on rather longer than it can sustain itself. But Edgerton, a former stuntman making his feature directing debut (the film is written by and co-stars his brother Joel), finds a few moments that indicate that he's destined for better things. A sequence in which Carla finds the bag of money — while her husband showers down the hall — uses a nicely wandering camera to effectively build suspense. That burned-down house, with shards of light peeking through what's left of its walls, makes an arresting sight, and a sequence in which something awful happens while children angelically sing "Silent Night" (it's Christmastime in Australia, under the warm sun) keeps you staring.

"The Square" is preceded by Edgerton's clever short film "Spider," a ink-dark comedy that jolted me out of my seat in horror at an expertly timed and quite upsetting effect (no, I won't tell you what; surprise is all), and which is dedicated, rather charmingly, to "my mum, who I still like to play tricks on." It indicates, perhaps even more so than "The Square," that this is a filmmaker worth watching, with a few tricks still up his sleeve.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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