The Magician (15)

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The Independent Culture

A nastily clever Australian comedy, about a Melbourne hit man, Ray, who has agreed to be the subject of a fly-on-the-wall documentary by his film-student neighbour, Max. Max follows him around, filming him as he shoots one target, kidnaps another and makes him dig his own grave, warns a former chum out of town.

The film works partly as a satire on film-making - a scathing comment on voyeurism wrapped up in an acutely observed parody of vérité mannerisms. Max's stumbling questions and comments from behind the camera, the uneasy intimacy between observer and observed: it's all been done before, but rarely so well. But running through it is a thread of comic suspense: as the film progresses, the audience can see what the ingenuous Max apparently can't, just how deep he is digging himself in, so that you begin to worry just who Ray's next target is going to be.

It's something of a personal triumph: Scott Ryan not only wrote and directed, but puts on a superbly believable turn as Ray - a low-rent, swaggering psycho, a long way from the suit-wearing assassins of Hollywood myth.

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