This handsome, paint-by-numbers thriller stars Ewan McGregor as gruff chess buff Brendan Lynch, who's also the most fearsome convict in Australia. Though he's got twenty years left to serve, he radiates the calm of a man who knows he'll find a way out -- which he does when he befriends nineteen-year-old pretty boy J.R. (Brenton Thwaites), sentenced to a mere six months.
Lynch cuts J.R. a deal: He'll protect him from rape if, once paroled, the kid will follow orders on the outside. These early scenes have menace. Thwaites has a sullen innocence and a rough backstory his character isn't willing to confess. But as soon as he's outside and shacked up in Lynch's luxury pad with nothing but a burner phone and a terrible new wispy mustache, the intensity dissipates. Now we're just watching this kid wonder how he'll have to pay off his debt while making eyes at a mysterious Russian delivery hottie named Tasha (Alicia Vikander), who treats him like a fool.
Thwaites can't do much with a character who's merely a hunky, brooding cipher, and the film's trajectory is as predictable as a bullet's: There's crosses and double-crosses, clumsily inserted strip club scenes, professions of eternal love between two heartthrobs who've barely spoken. And the screenwriters have merely written Tasha as an impossible fantasy, a badass chick who in one scene glares at her would-be seducer and orders him to give her space, and in the next surprises him by frolicking topless at the beach.