Joel Edgerton has a lot of options open to him. Riding the wave of the Australian hit, the Animal Kingdom star can and has gone for a number of big-budget Hollywood roles, in Exodus: Gods and Kings, opposite Tom Hardy in Warrior and in 2013’s The Great Gatsby.
It’s a huge temptation for any actor in this stage of his career to carve out an image as a reliable leading man and take on any number of the macho and/or action-heavy roles written for dudes in their thirties and forties, as Chris Pratt did in this summer’s biggest blockbuster Jurassic World, or Hardy in Mad Max: Fury Road.
Edgerton went in a slightly different direction with his latest movie The Gift, which he also wrote and directed, showing off his less than idealised talents at portraying the thoroughly discomforting childhood acquaintance of successful business exec Simon (Jason Bateman), who moves back to his home state only to encounter the unnerving Gordo (Edgerton).
Rendering creepy even something as simple as verbally recreating the sound of a helicopter, Edgerton makes the best of his creative Fatal Attraction-style role. Also playing against type as a charming yet thoroughly unlikeable husband/corporate hack, Bateman shows off his ample dramatic chops while still having enough scope within the sparsely comic yet frequently shocking screenplay for the Arrested Development star to flex his well-developed comedy muscles.
Edgerton is clearly the standout as the eerie and subtlety unsettling childhood friend who re-emerges after so many years. The Aussie actor shrewdly chose a seemingly counterintuitive starring-role to drive his increasingly prolific star-power, demonstrating his range as an actor and willingness to venture outside the glamorous roles typically afforded to actors with Edgerton’s track record.
Rebecca Hall (The Town) stages a solid performance as Simon’s wife, joining the audience as she comes to know Gordo and attempts to uncover his real motivations. A corporate storyline centring on Simon’s new job nicely complements the main drama, as elements of his and Gordo’s past continue to unravel.
An intermittently agitating, relatable and always compelling thriller, the unusual yet deft casting decisions helped make The Gift a thoroughly captivating drama and welcome career-move for its main stars.
The Gift is in cinemas on August 27