If you watched THE HANGOVER and thought it would work better as a thriller, then last night’s opening night premiere from Sundance 2012′s World Dramatic Competition, WISH YOU WERE HERE, will be right up your alley. Numerous critics out of Park City, including David Rooney from The Hollywood Reporter and Steven Zeitchik from The Los Angeles Times, have drawn comparisons between the blockbuster American comedy about a bunch of buddies who wake up after a night of partying they can’t remember to find one of their ranks missing, and this Australian import from writer/director Kieran Darcy-Smith about two couples who wake up after a night of partying they can’t remember to find one of their ranks missing. In other words, throw in Zach Galifianakis and a Mike Tyson tattoo, and we’re in Todd Phillips territory.
If the sudden influx of smart crime films from Australia is any indication of the quality of life in Oz, it might be time to start worrying about our friends down under. Hopefully it’s just an indication of the quality of cinema in Oz — which has risen sharply, along with the cinematic crime rate, in the last few years. In 2009, we were blown away by THE SQUARE, a sharp neo-noir from Aussie stuntman-slash-director Nash Edgerton. In 2010, David Michôd brought us ANIMAL KINGDOM, an epic tale of a Melbourne crime family in freefall; it won the World Cinema Jury Prize at that year’s Sundance Film Festival. This year’s Sundance’s World Dramatic competition features WISH YOU WERE HERE from writer/director Kieran Darcy-Smith, who appeared in both THE SQUARE and ANIMAL KINGDOM. All three films and all three filmmakers are part of an Australian collective called Blue-Tongue Films that also includes Luke Doolan and HESHER director Spencer Susser. Edgerton and Darcy-Smith’s partnership goes all the way back to the 1990s, when the duo co-directed their first short film together. It was called LOADED. And, hey, lookee! Here it is!