Kane works as an exploration of the blurred lines between loyalty and identity, but it ultimately falls short of being a psychologically tense thriller full of action, suspense, and twists.
I love split personality movies. From Sybil to Split, they’re each fascinating in their own right and successfully portray their individual perspectives and messages on mental health in ways that stick with the viewer long after the movie has ended. Whereas Summer 2023 brought us the highly regarded Apple TV series The Crowded Room, which stars Tom Holland as someone with a split personality, the fall season rolls right in and brings Kane, an Australian action crime thriller about a gangster working for an old school mob boss with multiple “violent” personalities. While Kane works as an exploration of the blurred lines between loyalty and identity, its impact as an action-packed, dark psychological thriller ultimately falls short.
Written, directed, and co-produced by Blair Moore, Kane is Moore’s feature film directorial debut. It tells the story of how a 24-hour period of violence unfolded between notorious Aussie crime bosses Abe (Jeremy Lindsay Taylor, of Playing for Keeps) and Frankie (Nathan Phillips, of Hunters), from the perspective of Abe’s driver, Benny (Clayton Watson, of Neighbours). And it appears Benny knows much more about Abe and his situation than anyone else does, including Abe. It even seems like Benny is the mastermind of the entire plot … but is he really? This is where Kane starts to lose us directionally, because it seems the filmmakers weren’t quite sure how they wanted to unravel the secrets surrounding this story.
In the dangerous world of Australian crime, a gang war erupts between the North Side and the South Side. Kane introduces us to Abe, the North Side mob boss who is all about loyalty and honor, respect and courage. Through a peek into his personal life, we see he is very patient, kind, and silly—a loving husband and father. But the second Abe steps outside his home, everything changes, and we quickly learn from Benny that Abe is “clearly off his medication,” which he takes for dissociative identity disorder, or multiple personality disorder.
In addition to Abe, Benny tells us that two other identities occupy his mind and body: Richard and Kane. Richard (Martin Dingle Wall, of Cypher) is the well-put-together financier. He washes the cash and turns it legal, and he’s very refined and particular—the kind of man who is obsessive about order and drinks tea with his manicured pinky extended. Richard has also gone rogue, creating his own separate life from Abe, who is very aware of this and unhappy about it.
On the other hand, Kane (Jake Ryan, of Home and Away) is the “violent” personality—the fighter. He’s the fixer, the killer, the one Abe can always rely on in times of darkness. In fact, Kane is Abe’s darkness: He’s the personification of Abe’s fear of the world, which he sees as a very hostile place full of danger and threats. Thus, he created Kane in order to survive and live out his fantasy life of violence. Kane has no fear, no guilt, no hesitation, and no conscience. He is, as Benny puts it, a “tailor-made savage,” which is exactly who Abe wants to be deep down.
Benny knows Kane and Richard are manifestations, but Abe thinks they’re very real people and as such, goes through his days interacting and communicating with (as) them both. But as this story continues, questions arise about who, exactly, has multiple personalities and which ones embody violence.
In a manner not unlike Verbal Kint/Keyser Soze in The Usual Suspects, Kane opens with and unfolds around Benny’s narration to the cops of the previous 24-hour period, which involved an intense chess game between Abe and Frankie that ended in blood, violence, and murder. This is one aspect of the film I enjoyed. Like Kint/Soze, Benny calmly seizes control of telling this story in his own unique way and has the police, and us, lapping his words right up like a tall glass of truth, without batting an eye. Kane’s filmmakers made a solid, smart choice here in choosing how this story is told and aside from Kane the character, Benny is the one who draws us in.
During this 24-hour period, Benny confronts Abe’s deadliest persona, Kane, as he questions his loyalty to Abe and contemplates joining Frankie. But as the battle between Abe and Frankie intensifies, Benny finds himself facing a choice that has the power to shake the entire criminal empire to its core. And without giving anything away, I will say that Benny manages to Keyser Soze all over everyone in this film, and that reason alone is what makes Kane worth a watch.
When I first saw this trailer, I got excited, thinking this was going to be one wild, active ride through psychological darkness, dramatic thrills, gang violence with blood and brutality, and a big twist at the end. And while Kane does present us with a cool story, a wild ride full action and thrills it is not. Kane has very little action—a huge, missed opportunity, especially given that one of its main characters is billed as “a killer” and “a fighter” who is “deadly” and “violent”. We barely see much of Kane at all, certainly not as much as we’d like to regarding his unpredictable personality.
I found Kane to be very cinematic in its filming techniques. It seems the filmmakers spent a healthy portion of their budget capturing beautiful nighttime aerial shots of cities while using creative camera techniques that don’t really do much to drive the slow pace or tension of the story beyond just giving a pretty perspective. The acting from most of the cast left little to be desired, and the dialogue between main and ancillary characters lacked any substance and interest in tying into the story presented in the trailer. Perhaps the best two roles in Kane are that of Benny and Kane. Both actors exude strong, solid, believable performances that insert the atmosphere into this film.
One of the best scenes, in addition to Kane head-butting troublemakers at a convenience store in the beginning, comes at the end of the film when Benny concludes his story to the police. I won’t tell you what he says or does, but honestly, Kane’s ending is so predictable, any film buff can see it coming from a mile away, and it leaves you with the feeling that the filmmakers weren’t quite sure what they wanted to go with the whole multiple personality aspect.
Overall, Kane has its moments and is a good watch, but it could’ve been a much better, more cohesive story full of psychological thrills, suspense, and boatloads of action. Unfortunately, it winds up being just another mediocre crime drama with an interesting concept but an unfinished narrative with no real surprises.
Kane will be released in US theaters, on digital and on demand on November 10, 2023.