Cut Snake

THRILLER; 1hr 34min

STARRING: Sullivan Stapleton, Alex Russell, Jessica De Gouw

Brother’s keeper: Stapleton (front) with Russell

The past resurrected can reveal us to ourselves, and not necessarily in a shiny light. Building a new, clean life on Melbourne’s fringes through his affirming love for his fiancée, Paula (De Gouw), baby-faced Merv (Russell), aka Sparra, is shocked back to his old, seamy reality when his erstwhile mate James (Stapleton), aka Pommie, is released from prison. The year is 1974 — not destined to be a happily memorable one for either Sparra, for whom manic stirrer Pommie has alternative plans, or the unwitting Paula, whom Pommie at the outset appears to covet.


The steep and vicious trajectory is no surprise: Stapleton’s percolating intent and director Tony Ayres’s itchy trigger finger leave zero doubt about that. Less foreseeable are the relationship dynamics that develop as the suicide mission gathers speed. Such heightened pitch is demanding to sustain without an intrusive backslide into overplaying, and while not every turn of events rings entirely true, the plotting payoffs carry the action, and the performances are a gutsy plus. Stapleton’s Pommie, in particular, is phenomenal; his flinty single-mindedness and quicksand slick of charm push every behavioural limit without one filter or false note.