When a man is released from a long stretch in prison he tries his best to reintegrate himself back into society, including returning to live with his wife and trying to find a job. But as his violent tendencies and reputation hold him back he finds it increasingly difficult to move on with his life until one terrible incident tips him over the edge.
This Australian realist drama follows in the footsteps of recent critical successes like Animal Kingdom and Snowtown, aiming for the ultra-realism of both those films while throwing on some added doses of style. But unlike those films it never quite finds its footing, trying to be multiple things at once and never succeeded in finding its own identity.
The performances are, however, excellent from a cast of mostly unknown actors and are the ultimate saving graces of the film. In particular Daniel P Jones, himself a reformed criminal, who is utterly convincing as a man desperate to live a normal life but who could (and often does) snap at any moment. His heightened craziness at times offsets the almost mundane reality of the rest of it, another example of where the film, while striking in those moments, is an awkward mix of tones.
It’s in no way an easy watch and doesn’t even offer the sort of enjoyable flourishes or sure handed control that the aforementioned Snowtown or Animal Kingdom possessed in spades. The violence is severe and realistic, often sickeningly so, which does lend it a sort of visceral atmosphere. But it’s ultimately a pretty thankless experience, wallowing in an uncomfortable grubbiness throughout.
Not without its strengths, Hail achieves a strong sense of realism in both its violence and naturalistic performances. However, it evoking recent similar Australian crime films as well as British crime-horror Kill List, the film severely pales in comparison. And what it’s ultimately about – can someone who has committed crimes in the past turn a new leaf? – doesn’t warrant the journey it puts the audience through.