Director: Megan Riakos
Screenwriter: Megan Riakos
Cast: Sarah Bishop, Les Hill, Roxanne Wilson
Runtime: 111 mins
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Review by Dave Griffiths
Two things have become very obvious over the years in the Australian film industry. We know how to make great genre flicks (our horror films are considered some of the best in the world) and we also know how to make good crime shows for television. It has been rare over the years for the two to meet but with Crushed director Megan Riakos (Blue Bird) seems to have done just that.
Set at a winery in country New South Wales the film centres around Ellia (Sarah Bishop – Red Christmas) a young woman who has become estranged from her family, especially her mother, Sophie (Roxane Wilson – Stingers) after a family tragedy years before. Ellia is then drawn back to the family winery after she receives a phone call to say that her father has died. Shortly after arriving back Ellia is shocked when Sophie is arrested and questioned for murder. Desperate to find out what has happened Ellia starts to put the pieces together and soon realises that the person who murdered her father could be any number of people from the local district, even her Uncle David (Les Hill – Rescue Special Ops).
Marrying the wine industry and cinema together has been something that French cinema has been trying to do a fair bit of over the past few years and many of those films have fallen flat on their face… something that Crushed certainly doesn’t do. The key here is the fact that Riakos hasn’t forced the ‘wine industry’ into the film. No instead this is a well-written crime-thriller set at a winery and showing division between a family that made a name for themselves by running one of Australia’s most famous wineries. The fact that subtle things such as chemicals from one property affecting anything property etc are used as a plot device right throughout the film shows that Riakos is also a talented screenwriter who not only researched the topic well but knows that a story needs to flow seamlessly and not have elements ‘forced’ into it.
What makes Crushed such a great film though is the fact that this is one crime thriller where the ‘killer’ can’t be picked until the film’s big reveal. So many times these days films in this genre are so stereotypical you can normally pick the answer to the mystery very early on. Not here though, Riakos’ screenplay keeps you guessing and then when the reveal does come about it is not a simple ‘oh that’s who done it’ instead Crushed plays out with a suspenseful, brutal finale that wouldn’t feel out of place in a horror film. A masterful piece of directing.
Bringing alive Riakos’ script amazingly well is the talented cast led by actress on the rise Sarah Bishop an actress who is showing that she great acting range from comedy right through to more suspenseful films like Crushed and the upcoming Red Christmas. Bishop brilliantly plays Ellia bringing an air of suspense to her character while handling more of the more confronting scenes with ease. Many of those scenes are shared with Les Hill who once again stands up and brings a menacing presence to the character of David. It is great to see Roxanne Wilson back on the big screen, she is one of Australia’s most under-rated actresses but never puts in a bad performance.
If you are a lover of good crime thrillers then Crushed is a must watch. With a beautifully written screenplay that keeps the audience guessing to how things are going to play out and set in a location that makes you want to head out to your local vineyard Crushed is a film you must hunt down on VOD. The main thing on your mind as the film’s final credits play is how long do we have to wait for this exciting and promising director to make her next film? One of the better Australian crime thrillers to have surfaced over the past few years.