The outback has been the setting for plenty of suspenseful movies – think Wolf Creek, Razorback, Wake in Fright – but surprisingly few crime thrillers. Writer-director Craig Lahiff (Black and White) now redresses the balance with Swerve.
Colin (David Lyons) is driving cross-country to a job interview when his car breaks down on the dusty track, 100 kilometres or so from Broken Hill. He is witness to a road accident; one of the drivers is dead, the other alive, and there’s also a mystery briefcase loaded with cash. Believing he’s doing the right thing, Colin hands the money in to a local police officer (Jason Clarke). And from that point on, Colin finds it increasingly hard to leave town.
“It keeps you on your toes, for sure,” says the film’s only female actor, Emma Booth, who plays the policeman’s wife Jina. “I loved the fast-paced script and Jina’s journey. It was something I hadn’t really done before, so I think that’s what attracted me to [the role].”
The Perth-born beauty is familiar from such TV roles as Kim Hollingsworth in Underbelly: The Golden Mile and Rose Pickles in Cloudstreet. Early next year we can expect to see her alongside Jason Statham in Taylor Hackford’s new thriller Parker. Her Swerve character is an archetypal femme fatale: a slippery temptress who’s also a victim.
“That was interesting, being the only female,” says Booth about pulling off the ‘more deadly than the male’ part. “[For Jina], everything is dead-end, so she sees Colin and the money as an ‘out’, using her stuff of nature to get what she wants.”
That “stuff of nature” is Booth’s svelte figure: in one scene, Jina goes for a naked swim. “Oh God! The pool scene: it was freezing. I can’t even tell you how cold it was, trying to get the lines out without my teeth chattering. The outback is really beautiful [but] fucking hot when it wasn’t freezing. We couldn’t win.”
That’s where Booth’s decade as a top model came in handy. “I came from years of constantly shooting summer in winter, and winter in summer. You’re either dying of heat exhaustion or wearing lingerie in Mount Fuji. So I’m pretty used to that.” Booth admits that she found maintaining the heightened emotions of her character during filming more of a challenge. “It was a draining role to play, emotionally. It’s a thriller, and you’re constantly ‘on the run’. But that’s the fulfilling part for me.
“[Lahiff] gave us free reign to trust our instincts, and do what we wanted to do. It’s a big thing for a director to trust us like that, and that’s what I loved. There was a lot of freedom with him. He’s a great man, he has great vision, he knew exactly what he wanted and pulled that off completely. I really admire him.”
Swerve opens Jun 7.
Highway to hell Road-based suspense movies
In this underrated thriller, Kurt Russell searches frantically for his wife who vanishes after their car breaks down in the desert and she goes in search of help.
Changing Lanes (2002)
An attorney (Ben Affleck) and an insurance salesman (Samuel L Jackson) miss crucial appointments thanks to a minor traffic incident and set out to ruin each other’s lives.
A hitchhiker (Tom Neal) accidentally kills the bookie who gives him a ride, and assumes his identity, in this film noir classic.
So well did Steven Spielberg direct this TV movie about a motorist (Dennis Weaver) stalked by a tanker truck that it was extended and released theatrically.
U Turn (1997)
A drifter (Sean Penn) transporting a large amount of cash gets into trouble with a small-town femme fatale (Jennifer Lopez) and her aggressive husband (Nick Nolte).