Movies · Reviews

Foreign Objects: Restraint

With a dearth in well-known Australian cinema, Rob Hunter finds a diamond in the outback that’s a must-see for thriller fans.
By  · Published on September 10th, 2008

Foreign Objects travels the world of international cinema each week to highlight films worth visiting. So renew your passport, get your shots, and brush up on the local age of legal consent, this week we’re heading to…

Australia! After watching the trailer for a new documentary on Australian B-movies from decades past, I had the urge to head down under for this week’s Foreign Objects. As I inferred in that post on Not Quite Hollywood, there aren’t a lot of obvious and current Australian flicks that come to mind. After a little searching though I found one recent flick that’s been getting some solid positive reviews. I didn’t recognize the director or any of the actors, and the film’s multiple working titles all screamed “Shit”… Guests, Power Surge, Ravenswood… but it was Australian and was just released on DVD last month so I went with it.

Restraint has a simple setup. A young couple, Ron (Travis Fimmel) and Dale (Teresa Palmer), are on the run from the law and decide to hole up in an abandoned house, only the house isn’t as empty as they’d hoped. Inside lives Andrew (Stephen Moyer), an agoraphobic trapped in his home by his illness and his sorrow even before the young thugs arrived to take him prisoner. Ron wants to kill Andrew, but Dale convinces him otherwise. A hot chick going commando in a sexy black dress can be very persuasive. Andrew is caught trying to call for help, and to prolong his life he offers the duo a way to get oodles of cash for their escape. Basically, if Dale dyes her hair and dresses in Andrew’s currently out-of-town fiance’s clothes, the resemblance is an uncanny one. Over the course of two days she can head into town and cash two checks from Andrew’s trust fund, providing the young lovers with $40,000 to fund their getaway. Sounds simple, but this is a devious and twisted little thriller where even the slightest events are far from simple. As the plan rolls out, the mind games begin, and the real question becomes who’s playing who?

Palmer looks like a sexier, fleshier Kristen Stewart, and based on both her talent and utter hotness displayed in Restraint I can easily see a long career in front of her. She’s alternately nervous, flustered, seductive, and in control (but always sexy), and she handles the transition from each emotion to the next seamlessly. Fimmel isn’t quite as successful as the murderer with serious rage and insecurity issues. He overdoes it more than once and oftentimes too abruptly with very little build-up before he explodes. Moyer shines as the weak and fearful man who may be more than he appears… or may not. Restraint is directed by Dave Denneen, who per IMDB, made two short films between 1973 and 2003 (giving Takashi Miike a run for his money there) before making his big screen debut this year. Working with an obviously low budget, Denneen has made a very good looking film. Shots of the big manse, both inside and out, the long roads, and the steamy pond outside all impress, as does the screenplay by Dave Warner which carefully and methodically adds more layers to the initial simplicity.

Restraint is an excellent thriller, with strong characters, subtle touches, and suspenseful scenes of tension and discovery. You never quite know where it’s going, up to, including, and beyond the final haunting shot. Aside from a little bit of overacting by Fimmel, the three leads do admirable-to-excellent jobs conveying the motivations and desires of their characters. Add in one of the sexiest scenes I’ve seen in a long time… Palmer strolling naked into the bathroom and coyly teasing a bound Andrew with her stunning body, and while there is flesh on display, it’s the promise that titillates more than anything explicit happening on screen. I hope to see more from director Denneen in the future. And more of Palmer would be nice as well.

The Upside: Unpredictable; impressive cinematography; smart screenplay that leaves room for debate; an incredibly sexy scene with a bare-ass naked Palmer

The Downside: Some overacting from Fimmel; only one incredibly sexy scene (and a handful of just plain sexy scenes) with a bare-ass naked Palmer

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.