Film Review Critical Review of SOLO
Daniel McIntosh

Part 1 (<1000 words) Film Information

Dendy Films presents a Movie Network Channels/Screentime production

Credits:
Screenwriter-director: Morgan O'Neill
Producer: Sue Seeary
Executive producers: Sue Milliken, Bob Campbell, Chris Berry, Tony Forrest
Director of photography: Hugh Miller
Production designer: Murray Picknett
Music: Martyn Love, Damian Deboos-Smith
Costume designer: Paula Ryan
Editor: Marcus D'Arcy

Cast:
Jack Barrett: Colin Friels
Billie: Bojana Novakovic
Reno: Linal Haft
Kate: Angie Milliken
Keeling: Vince Colosimo
Kennedy: Bruce Spence
Arkan: Chris Haywood
Louis: Tony Barry
MA15+ Strong coarse language and Strong Violence
Running time -- 98 minutes

 

Theatrical Release Date:  6th of July 2006
DVD Release:  4th of April 2007

 

Solo had a budget of $1 million Australian dollars. Solo finished in two hundred and thirty second place on the 2006 Australian Box office list of films released that year.  It earned $28,575 on opening weekend and $102,620 overall.

DVD-Extras:
Interviews with the Following Cast and Crew
Morgan O’Neill(Writer & Director
Collin Friels(Jack Barrett)
Sue Seeary(Producer)
Linal Haft (Reno)
Angie Milliken (Kate)
Bojana Novakovic (Billy Finn)

http://www.webwombat.com.au/entertainment/movies/o'neill-int.htm
http://www.abc.net.au/atthemovies/txt/s1679605.htm (TV show transcript from abc show “at the movies)
http://www.afc.gov.au/newsandevents/indivision_archives/2006/01_jun.aspx
http://www20.sbs.com.au/podcasting/index.php?action=feeddetails&feedid=7&catid=2&page=2 (Morgan O’Neil interview pod cast from SBS)
http://www.urbancinefile.com.au/home/view.asp?a=11978&s=Interviews (most of interview is blocked off where only payed subriscribers to urbancinefile.com can access the full interview.
http://www.infilm.com.au/features/morganoneill.htm
http://www.theblurb.com.au/Issue67/ONeill.htm

 

Part 2 (<2000 words) Critical Review of Film and Literature

Solo is written and directed by Morgan O’Neill, the inaugural winner of the Australian version of Project Greenlight. Project Greenlight is the brainchild of Matt Damon, Ben Affect and American Pie producer Chris More which first aired on American Television in 2003, a TV series where you can enter a screenplay you have written and if it’s selected as the winner you are given 1 million dollars to produce it as a feature film. Morgan O’Neill was given 1 million Australian dollars to produce Solo. Solo is a genre film that centers its story on Jack Barrett. Jack is an ageing hitman that can no longer do his job because it makes him physically sick and he decides he wants out. The Gentleman, an underworld crime organization that jack works for doesn’t want to let Jack out just yet, they want him to do one last Job.  That last job becomes a problem for Jack as he gets closer to his last target and his last target gets closer to him. It’s a race to settle some scores and get out before’ the Gentleman’ and Friends retire him permanently.
This Film has an interesting Plot and story keeping in line with being a genre film. It has a surprise twist at the end which is only hinted at through the plot. I found it had similar plots to other classic crime genre films like Two hands, Dirty Deeds and Getting Square where they all have the stereotypical underworld figures but set in different time periods.  When watching Solo it does feel like a film I have watched before it follows the Australian crime genre so closely it’s only at the end, that what has happen before takes on a slightly more original light. Collin Friels as Jack Barrett gives an amazing subtle performance which fulfilled the director’s dreams of having a humanized likeable Jack Barrett. Friels works well with newcomer Bojana Novakovic who plays Billy Finn. Morgan Oneill stated in the interviews for the DVD that he liked that fact that Bojana was the only newcomer around a bunch of much more experienced actors because the character Billy had to have this fresh inexperience quality compared to the hardened criminals of the underworld.  I liked how this underworld was shown with a wide variety of Sydney locations from on top of a building overlooking Sydney’s CBD landscape to RSLs and strip clubs in the Cross.  Morgan O’neill mentioned in one of his interviews that it was an active choice to have many different locations around Sydney but to shoot it so it wasn’t overly defined as Sydney so it could be imagined as any major city around the world. The film sends a strong message about not being able to undo what’s already been done, which is stated at the start of the film and is tied up at the end of the film for both Jack Barrett and Billy Finn.

I’ve read many reviews for this film and most of the reviews state that their disappointed it’s not something more original. There seems to be some sort of extra pressure placed on O’Neill and Solo because this film was chose to be made over 1199 others. Some reviewers feel he shouldn’t have won because the script because its rehashing cliques of a well told genre.  They also feel also that the script showed more promise than the final product and the limitations of the budget showed through. Some reviewers found that the supporting characters especially those in the criminal underworld are one dimensional. Some reviewers mentioned that the Billy Finn character seemed implausible and a little far fetched.  A couple of reviews pointed out that when Jack Barrett is warning Billy Finn to stay out of ‘the gentleman’s business’ she replies by staying “you have read to many John Grishom books” but the character had just said earlier that she is doing her thesis on the findings of the wood royal commission that would of have included all the gory details of the underworld and would of made Jack Barrett’s warning completely justified.
There is a general disappointment amongst the critical reviews that budget constraints seriously affected the quality of this film. It was mentioned that time and time again you could see that they were hampered by strick budget constraints
There were some positives. Some reviewers found that even though it’s a story that’s been told before it was still and enjoyable Genre film. Reviewers found that Collin Friels performance as Jack Barrett was typically excellent and that Bojana Novakovic showed promise as Billy Finn. Some reviewers paid special notice on how Morgan O’Neill captured a gritty Sydney underworld by shooting at many different locations.

 

The production of Solo did have certain circumstances surrounding its production and release. Solo’s budget of 1 million dollars had to be strictly adhered to. The Solo script was almost not chosen as the winner of project greenlight because the Producer felt that there was no way possible for it to be made for a million dollars. It was only chosen after an interview with the director Morgan O’neill. Where he was able to communicate how sure he was of his vision and his willingness to work with in the parameters of the production. Once solo was selected the first thing they did to the script is go through and take out anything that wasn’t crucial to the story and/or would of cost way to much money. There was one scene involving a giant fish tank being smashed open that would of cost over a quarter of the whole budget to shoot and it was immediately taken out as it wasn’t crucial to the story either. You can tell by the end product that they were restricted by the budget and that there obliviously wasn’t that much money left over for advertising.
Another factor is that Morgan was a first time director and a winner of a reality TV show comp. That has numerous effects not only on production but on release and box office to. That fact that the production was going to be shown as a TV show would limit the things they could do on the set and the people they would have to hire. Even with the critical reviews the film is stuck under the shadow of project greenlight and gets critiqued with that fact in mind. If less had been known about its production it might have had more favorable reviews.

 

 

This was the directors first time directing a feature film. He had only made a couple of short films previously.

Solo’s current place on contemporary critical and market horizons places it as a genre film that audiences have seen before and probably done better. Its only did just over $102,000 at the box office. Solo is doing what most Australian films are doing at the moment, at least commercially, is fading in the background. Australian films at the moment only account for 1% of the local box office revenue.  I think the reason this film disappeared upon release is the material has been told before and for a low budget film especially in the Australian Film industry at the moment, it has to have original material to make an impact.

 

It has been mentioned previously in this critical review that this film is a genre film. I think that this film sticks pretty closely to the crime genre with mixture of the 3 sub genres. The detective film (and investigative thriller), the gangster film and the suspense thriller (Neale, 2000). Neale describes that these genres blend in to each other. This film is closely releated to other films with in the genre for example Two hands and Dirty deeds. They are both films about the underworld and feature a lot of the same characters as Solo and Im sure would have been in influence of the director.

Reference List

Steve Neale 2000, Genre and Hollywood, Routledge, London & New York 71-85