Urban Cinefile
"I think the Seventh Day Adventists are good people. They are just wrong on about 15 major counts"  -writer and film maker Bob Ellis
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Friday May 22, 2020 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



Young and innocent Ben Madigan (Tom Long) gets a job as a personal injury assessor for a large insurance company. Stuck in “whiplash city” doing personal injury claims, Ben seeks to bring some compassion to the job. His boss, John Kreisky (Bryan Brown) seizes on this and asks Ben to participate in an experiment - nothing less than a means of skimming money from the company involving fraudulent claims supplied by his solicitor girlfriend Louise Roncoli (Claudia Karvan). Louise seduces Ben and draws him further into the crooked world of insurance scams, where his reluctance and his libido collide.

“The devil’s in the detail, they say, and never is it more apt - and more crucial - than in filmmaking. In this case, it’s the tone of the film that is at stake. From the start, the film’s tone is influenced (for Australian audiences at least) by Tom Long’s recent success in The Dish, where he plays a likeable, down to earth Australian bloke with a comedic persona. His face is perfect in that role; it’s a hinderance in this one, because it sets us up for an expectation that the film does not deliver. Risk is a drama, not a comedy, even though it has some amusing moments. Some of these are crammed into the opening sequences when Ben Madigan is at ‘insurance school’; together with Bryan Brown’s brittle-funny portrayal we are (mis)lead into expecting a comedic treatment of the subject. And while the premise and setting is a welcome change for Australian filmmaking, Risk also suffers from a low budget approach to a genre - the caper thriller - which demands more. Yes, we understand that the design is spartan for genuine creative reasons, it still tends to look a bit sparse and reduces the sense of place we need to be swept along. The music stings that might help propel the film more dynamically are missing, and cliché creeps in occasionally (like in the home decorating scene). Although the script could take an extra draft or two, there is much that is right with the film, too, including Claudia Karvan’s electric performance, clever editing, fine and fresh cinematography - and the basic setting of the story.”
Andrew L. Urban

"Risk is a neat little concoction that's all the better for not being easy to categorise. Part caper thriller, part romance, part black comedy, this is anything but dull as it weaves a tricky tale around three well drawn and expertly portrayed characters. The sincerity and slight goofiness Tom Long has brought to roles in Sea Change, Two Hands and The Dish proves perfect for the part of an innocent (but not too innocent) young man whose most valuable asset (the heart Kreisky and Louise no longer possess) is the vital element that makes Kreisky's plan work. It's through Ben's eyes that audiences will experience the tangle of deception and attraction and even as he's willingly being corrupted he retains our sympathy - a critical factor in the film's success. Brown and Karvan make a sparky duo as the instigators of this "good little earner" and it's particularly pleasing to see Karvan having fun playing such a nasty operator as Louise. Although more time could have been assigned to the mechanics of the scam itself (too much detail is carried in voice-over) Risk still impresses on many fronts. The symmetrical, antiseptic interiors of the company office add an extra dimension of drama to this immorality play by personifying the attitude of the "bastards upstairs" who have passed Kreisky over for promotion. Well chosen songs and an excellent original score by Don Miller-Robinson add effective touches and smart use of choice Sydney CBD locations gives it real energy. There aren't too many Australian films that attempt what Risk does - combining a loss of innocence story within a crime thriller and a love triangle. That it pulls the elements together successfully for the most part is further evidence of Allan White's growing skills as a director and good reason to take a look at this lively outing."
Richard Kuipers

"There’s no point mincing words - Risk is the best Australian film for at least 5 years. This is a brilliantly made blend of style and substance that should confirm Alan White as one of this country’s most exciting filmmakers. He employs a “cropped” narrative to tell this story of an innocent manipulated into doing something he doesn’t fully understand. The visual scheme is striking, almost architectural - both literally and figuratively - giving a larger-than-life quality. White experimented with this in his earlier film, Erskineville Kings; but while that was a fine picture, Risk represents a quantum leap. With its stunning cinematography, economical story-telling and (initial) focus on an insurance assessor with a conscience, it echoes one of Atom Egoyan’s early films, The Adjuster. But White takes things in a different direction to make a film all his own. Risk could well mark a new point in Australian cinema; a universal story told in a uniquely Australian environment, but without the taint of parochialism. The cast is exceptional, with Tom Long brilliant as the at-first insecure young man who gradually comes to be enmeshed in something much bigger than he imagines. Claudia Karvan is also terrific as the ruthless Louise; and her sexually predatory tactics steam up an already searing plot (for a reference point, see Barbara Stanwyck in another insurance-themed movie, Double Indemnity). But it’s Bryan Brown as the street-smart Kreisky who makes the film. He wears Kreisky’s battle-scarred face like a badge of honour; a testament to a life dedicated to looking after Number One, but manages to retain the kind of laconic charm for which he’s known. If any Australian film deserves to break through overseas, it’s Risk. A class act all the way, this is a film that deserves success."
David Edwards

Email this article

Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

See our INTERVIEW with Alan White


CAST: Bryan Brown, Tom Long, Claudia Karvan, Jason Clarke, Brian Meegan

DIRECTOR: Alan White

PRODUCER: Marian Macgowan

SCRIPT: John Armstrong and Steve Wright, (Based on the short story ‘The Adjustor’ by Tracy Kidder


EDITOR: Lee Smith


MUSIC: Don Miller-Robinson

RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes



VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Home Entertainment
VIDEO RELEASE: November 7, 2001

© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2020