A drug deal gone bad; a suitcase full of cash; a greedy cop; a coy beautiful woman and a stranger in an outback town. Swerve is writer/director Craig Lahiff’s densely plotted but tenuously connected Australian thriller starring David Lyons as Colin, a former Iraq war engineer who wished he never drove into the dusty shit hole of Neverest en route to a job interview.

The film plays like a diluted cross between No Country for Old Men and U-Turn, ran through a sun-burnt Australian lens. Performances all round are solid, with Jason Clarke as a violent corrupt policeman the pick of the bunch. Vince Collosimo plays a seedy business owner/operator but his talents are wasted, as is Roy Billing, whose appearance is criminally short.

Lahiff strings together an entertaining chain of actions ‘n’ consequences but yanks the strings of disbelief suspension too hard and aspires to do too much without mastering the basics. Part of the problem is that Swerve can’t decide who the villain is, or simply won’t settle on one, which results in a screenplay that abandons the initial baddie for almost an entire act until it reaches a dramatically convenient point to yank him back into the story. References to the protag’s history as an engineer in Iraq are pointless and detract from his everyman stranger-caught-in-a-odd-situation predicament.

And yet there is a black-humoured offbeat rhythm to Swerve that will appeal to audiences looking for a watch on the couch no-brainer.

Swerve’s Australian theatrical release date: June 7, 2012
A version of this review was originally published last year.