Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Say you’re a hitman like Jack Barett (Colin Friels) in the Australian film ‘Solo’.  You’ve been deep sixing dudes and dudettes and the occasional child for upwards of thirty years now and quite frankly, you’ve had enough.  Now I don’t know how the retirement plan for mobsters works in the real world, but I know for damn sure that in the movie world the only way out the game is to die in the game.  Jack Barrett isn’t hearing any of it though, and he’s letting his superiors, and whoever else in earshot know that he’s done with this life and plans to spend the rest of his days off the barrier reef casting a few lines.  Jack has a few problems to deal with though.  Of course there are his mob bosses who aren’t too keen on anybody trying to cash in on early retirement, but even more pressing is the fact that thirty years of killing people earns you the occasional enemy here and there.  There’s police constable Keeling, Hell, I guess that what the call the bobby’s in Australia.  Anyway, Keeling (Vince Colosimo) has decided to end Jack since he is now lacking the always looming mob support.  Also there is Vietnamese gangster Nguyen (Ahn Do) who really wants Jack dead since apparently Jack had something to do with the death of dudes father. 


Can it get anymore complicated for Jack?  Why yes it can.  There is this busy little graduate student by the name of Billie (Bojana Novakovic) who is doing her masters thesis on the Australian mob and their dealings.  She meets Jack at the gunshop where he is palming off the rest of his guns and she latches on to the old dude.  For whatever the reason, be it paternal or sexual, Jack is drawn to the spunky young lass with the hot little body.  I threw that in there because it’s true, if not somewhat inconsequential to the narrative of this story.  Billie is causing more than a little bit of trouble with her investigation.  So much so that even her graduate advisor advises her to quit, even going so far as to promise her a passing grade if she leaves it alone.  Not our little

Billie, who has dug deep enough into this Aussie underworld quagmire to warrant getting a hit put out on her.  Jack’s final hit.  Jack does this one last gig and he’s off free and clear.  If he doesn’t….  So what pray tell is Jack going to do?


Apparently Australia has there own Project Greenlight competition and the winner of this particular year was Morgan O’Neil and his script for ‘Solo’, which he also directed.  Simply by reading a description of Solo we can tell that there is absolutely nothing even remotely original about the concept of a mobster wanting out of the game and his superiors’ unwillingness to let him leave.  The question is how does O’Neil and his crew handle this tried and true story line, and do they bring anything new and fresh to it?  Well they handle it very well thank you very much, and with a very high level of skill and polish.  If there were budget constraints due to the relatively meager Project Greenlight budget, O’Neil and his crew masked them well.  Particularly effective was the atmosphere of the Aussie underground and the characterizations of those inhabiting this world.  Of course I have no idea what the criminal element of Australia is really like, but O’Neil was able to convey his vision of that world as wholly authentic and real.


The true strength of ‘Solo’ lies in the performances of its accomplished cast as veteran actor Colin Friels gives real texture to the character of Jack Barrett.  Barrett is a killer more by circumstance than from pathology.  Though it does take a certain pathology to kill someone, chop them up and dump them in the ocean on a consistent basis, Friels imbued Barrett with a certain humanity and charm that had you caring about his plight and pulling for this lonely, empty, tough but easy going dude to find his way about.  One tends to wonder about Bojana Novakovic’s character of Billie and her motivation and steadfast doggedness in this thesis of hers, despite the trouble she’s obviously in, but she does have her reasons, Novakovic does well in keeping us in the dark on what those reasons are.  Also of note are Linal Haft as Barrettt’s direct boss Reno who is quite comic with his wickedness.  Where Jack is doing his job out obligation, Reno is obviously a mobster who enjoys his chosen line of work.


‘Solo’ was a surprisingly good film, if not too terribly original, but then what is left to be original about?  Beats me.  Take the tried and true and put your own spin on it and see how it turns out.  First time director Morgan O’Neil has done just that and has managed to create a very entertaining film out of it.

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