Chess is ruthless: you’ve got to be prepared to kill people.
That quote opens the new Aussie thriller Kane, the camera focusing on Abe (Jeremy Lindsay Taylor, Transfusion, Deep Water) playing a game. In voiceover Abe’s driver, Benny (Clayton Watson, Gargantua, The Matrix Reloaded) tells us a few things. Abe is an old-school gangster, all about loyalty and honor. He also has dissociative identity disorder more commonly known as multiple personalities, and as he’ll mention shortly, he’s off his meds.
He also tells us that Abe’s opponent is Frankie (Nathan Phillips, The Devil Below, Blood Vessel), a former member of his outfit who is now his rival for control of the city’s underworld. A rivalry that has turned bloody
From here writer/director Blair Moore (Canadian Psycho) lets Benny tell the story of the past twenty-four hours in flashback as he’s being interrogated by the police, cutting back and forth between what he tells the cops, and what he claims via voiceover really happened.
Eventually we’re introduced to Kane (Jake Ryan, Wyrmwood: Apocalypse, Savage), although we already know he isn’t real. He’s one of Abe’s personalities, a ruthless killer and Abe’s fixer. The thing is Abe believes him to be real, even exchanging messages with him via burner phones. His other personality is Richard (Martin Dingle Wall, Happy Hunting, Murder Call) a money launderer. He’s had a falling out with Abe and gone into business for himself.
While that obviously takes away some opportunities for surprise, it does have the potential to tell an interesting story of how the personalities handle their issues. Set against Abe’s war with Frankie that could have been a great story. But Kane doesn’t go there. Instead, it’s a rather talky attempt at a thriller that has little action and, as the prologue gives away, has the turf war play out as a game of chess, which is neither original nor overly thrilling, especially as we don’t see much of the game.
If Moore had held back the knowledge that the characters were Abe’s personalities the film would have played out better in the end. The script sets up some interesting possibilities but wastes most of the idea’s potential. And knowing all of this means most viewers will have guessed the final twist well before it occurs. Actually, thinking about it again, you could probably have guessed it anyway, it’s that obvious.
Director of cinematography Timothy Carr (Tabernacle 101, Two Heads Creek) delivers some effective shots of Brisbane at night and does a good job of capturing the film’s few violent moments. His work in the small club where the climax takes place helps give it some of the impact the script can’t, but it’s not enough to save it.
The two leads deliver excellent performances, especially in the first half as they’re frequently the only ones on screen. Unfortunately, neither of the actors playing Abe’s personalities is given much to work with.
Kane is simply a hulking brute, at one point he sees ghosts of his victims, but that’s it, All Ryan can do is look convincing beating and shooting people. Richard gets a little more development, just enough to tell us he’s an asshole, leaving Wall little to do. Even Frankie, who is the film’s presumptive antagonist, is pretty much a blank slate, a big mistake in almost any film.
Kane has enough going on to make it watchable, but that’s about it. Moore wastes an interesting concept and a couple of solid performances on a film whose only clever moment is a car with a front plate that reads CATCH22.
Saban Films will release Kane in theaters as well as on VOD and Digital Platforms on November 10th.