Sundance Film Festival

WISH YOU WERE HERE — From Australia to Cambodia to Park City

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!

LOADED is undeniably crude, but it’s also undeniably energetic, with superb camera and stuntwork for an ultra-low-budget short. Blue-Tongue’s signature blend of snappy dialogue and bone-crunching violence is already on display, too. Also on display, though it might be hard to recognize him, is Nash Edgerton’s brother Joel as the young hood named Frog. Fifteen years later, Joel — another member of Blue-Tongue — reunites with Darcy-Smith for WISH YOU WERE HERE as one of a quartet of Australian tourists who take a vacation in Cambodia. Four friends go on the trip, but only three return, prompting an investigation and a desperate scramble by the survivors. Edgerton, who gave a great performance in 2011′s MMA indie WARRIOR, was last seen in the remake of THE THING, fighting off a shapeshifting alien in the Arctic. In other words, if you ever find yourself in an exotic travel destination with Joel Edgerton get the hell out of there as quickly as possible. Here’s the trailer for WISH YOU WERE HERE:

The other survivors of the ill-fated getaway are played by Teresa Palmer (TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT, THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE) and Felicity Price, who co-wrote the screenplay with Darcy-Smith for more of that collaborative, filmmaking collective-y feel. Darcy-Smith’s old partner Nash Edgerton is even on hand coordinating stunts. If the other Blue-Tongue Films are any indication, WISH YOU WERE HERE is guaranteed to leave Park City audiences blue in the face. Or at least in the tongue.

WISH YOU WERE HERE premieres Thursday January 19 at 6:30 PM at the Library Center Theatre. For full festival playdates, go to Sundance.org.