Jonathan and Beth (Hugo Weaving and Josephine Byrnes), a happily married couple, lead a pleasant middle-class life despite some recent monetary woes. One evening, Beth returns home alone, forgetting that Jonathan had promised her an evening at the opera, and catches a real burglar. With more luck than sense, she manages to put the miscreant out of action. To her great dismay, she discovers that the thief is Jonathan’s best friend. Like all married men, he can explain everything. Together with his friend, he had staged a robbery to get some much-needed cash from the insurance company. Beth, being a good wife, decides to keep her mouth shut and go along with the scam. Soon she will regret this decision. Roland Copping (Phil Collins), the shrewd and eccentric insurance man, immediately sees through their little game. But instead of turning them in, he begins to blackmail them with diabolical pleasure until they are no longer sure they can even call their underwear their own. Copping’s torture drum of games and pranks seems inexhaustible. But the couple have no intention of letting themselves be done and deploy a deadly array of gadgets against their tormentor.

Australian Stephan Eliott’s debut is a true mishmash of genres. The film moves easily from thrillers to dark comedy over slapstick back to thrillers. The role of Machiavellian eternal child is right up Phil Collins’ (many records and CDs, Buster) street. Hugo Weaving (Proof) and Josephine Byrnes (Brides of Christ) give him appropriate resistance. And that is not least thanks to the gadgets by set designer Brian Thompson, who already demonstrated his skills with Toys. Frauds is a pleasant surprise package, which is also full of unexpected tricks and turns on the camera. In short, this is a worthy cross between the universe of Beetlejuice and that of Doctor Caligari.

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