Director: Scott Ryan


A talkative Melbourne hit-man and his long-suffering marks are engaging company in ‘The Magician’, an Aussie ‘mockumentary’ cut from the same cloth as the Belgian cult item ‘Man Bites Dog’ (1992).

Thirty-something Ray Shoesmith (writer-director Scott Ryan) is the willing subject of a student documentary being made by Max (cinematographer Massimiliano Andrighetto). Having established his credentials as a ruthless trigger-man in the opening scene, Ray spends the rest of the movie as a kind of friendly tour guide, as various targets are picked up and given the chance to plead their cases. What this typically amounts to is brief talk on crimes and misdemeanours before more lengthy (and increasingly absurd) digressions into trivial topics. Chief among the latter is the amusing idea of linking the victims’ life-expectancy with their knowledge of movies. One of the film’s best moments is when a bound hostage is yanked out of a car trunk to settle an argument between Ray and Max about Clint Eastwood’s involvement, or otherwise, in ‘The Dirty Dozen’.

The film revels in droll discourse on everything from the price of eating one’s own excrement to the role-model responsibilities of philandering sports stars. None of it would really work without a fair amount of memorable dialogue and a charismatic central performance. Debuting director Ryan is the whole show here, and shows impeccable timing in milking laughs from the episodic format. The production has a technical standard way above its reported shooting budget. If anything, the occasional speck of dirt on Andrighetto’s lens only adds to the down-and-dirty appeal.—Richard Kuipers/Variety.

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