Lina Lamont

"What do you think I am, dumb or something?"

The Company You Keep

This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 28th April 2013

Well, you can’t say that a Robert Redford-directed film based on a true life radical protest group in the American 1970s starring Julie Christie, Shia LaBeouf and Redford himself doesn’t sound promising. The question is whether a dream cast and a wordy who-really-dunnit story can deliver on its promises. Disappointingly, it doesn’t quite.

Redford casts himself as the lawyer whose sole charge of an adored young daughter is jeopardised when he gets caught up in a decades-old man hunt. In the thirty years since a bank robbery went wrong, the now senior members of a radical cell have dispersed across the country. When one gives herself up, Terrence Howard’s generically intrepid FBI agent gets on the case, and lawyer Jim Grant starts his own investigation.

Despite the film almost drowning under the weight of its star power (count the Oscar nominees on the poster! – proof that clearly when Redford calls, you answer), the performances are mostly solid, even if the likes of Stanley Tucci, Sam Elliott and Nick Nolte are underused and Julie Christie comes across as trying too hard. While hardly in their Quartet years just yet, this still feels like an opportunity to get the band back together, with Brit Marling (Arbitrage) and LaBeouf’s contemporary chemistry thrown in to coax the younger audience. Redford should really have cast someone else in his lead role, as much because he appears tired and unconvincing as because the maths of everyone’s ages distractingly doesn’t add up.

It is LaBeouf’s tenacious, plucky young reporter who keeps things moving in this distinctly old-school narrative of drawn-out revelations which nonetheless manages to be engaging from start to end. So I suppose I should say good old Redford, really, for championing the stars of yesteryear in a gritty, well-written if poorly-paced drama.

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