Three years after achieving a huge hit with the first Inbetweeners movie, the cast are back with another ‘Brits Abroad’ money-spinner.
The Inbetweeners 2 (Channel 4 DVD) picks up with geeky Will (Simon Bird) struggling to make friends at university, while self-absorbed Simon (Joe Thomas) is trapped in a loveless relationship with his new girlfriend Lucy. When Simon and dim-witted Neil (Blake Harrison) visit Will for a humiliatingly uneventful weekend, the hapless trio make the decision to travel to Australia to meet up with vulgar likely lad Jay (James Buckley), who is supposedly having the time of his life, working as a DJ in Sydney. Inevitably, Jay’s tall tales have little connection to reality and the posse’s feeling of mutual disillusionment spurs them on to explore Australia and rub shoulders with the hordes of hardened backpackers.
The Inbetweeners 2 is a crowd-pleasing sequel to a franchise that keeps on growing. The series found its niche a long time ago, and the writers are now determined to wring every last puerile gag out of the well-worn set-up. The cast may get older, the slang cruder and the set-pieces dirtier, but The Inbetweeners 2 feels like a weirdly timeless affair.
While it is not quite as enjoyable as the first movie, this sequel still boasts enough genuine laugh-out-loud moments to stay competitive. Two of the quartet that first emerged back in 2008 – Bird and Thomas – are now in their 30s, rendering future outings increasingly unlikely, but the cast and crew have delivered a solid body of work over the last six years. While it may not be the funniest – or even the most affecting – chapter of their ongoing story, The Inbetweeners 2 is arguably the slickest outing yet.
The Guvnors (Metrodome) is a culture-clash thriller which sets a violent teenage gang on a collision course with the middle-aged football hooligans who used to call the shots on their South London Estate. Stanley knife-wielding Adam (Harley Sylvester from pop group Rizzle Kicks) has carved himself a fearsome reputation – quite literally – and will stop at nothing to earn respect and prove that he now runs things. Meanwhile, Mitch (Doug Allen, The Firm, Eastenders) lives in the suburbs with his wife and son, after turning his back on his violent hooligan lifestyle 20 years earlier. Mitch is determined not to let his impressionable teenage son follow in his violent footsteps, but Adam’s obsession with seizing his unwanted hard-man crown sets the two men against one another. Inevitably, Mitch is forced to enlist his estranged crew to back him up as he heads back to where it all began…
Plausibly described as a cross between Kidulthood and Football Factory, The Guvnors is a brisk, nasty exercise in council estate violence. B-movie veteran Doug Allen is convincing in the lead role, and Harley Sylvester gives a memorably intense debut performance – and one that is radically different from the affable role played by his Rizzle Kicks bandmate Jordan Stephens in twisted youth drama Glue recently. After a glut of hooligan movies a decade ago, the trend died out, and Gabe Turner – whose previous pictures have been football documentaries – plunges headlong into unfamiliar territory. Not perfect, but highly watchable and a cut above many similarly-pitched genre barrel-scrapers. The Guvnors is sure to latch onto a receptive audience on DVD.
Bringing up the rear this week is A Spell to Ward off the Darkness (Soda), the debut feature collaboration between two emergent visual artists – Ben Rivers and Ben Russell. The film follows an unnamed character through three seemingly disparate moments in his life: with little in the way of explanation, we join him in the midst of a 15-person collective on a small Estonian island; in isolation in the majestic wilderness of Northern Finland; and during a concert as the singer and guitarist of a black metal band in Norway.
Musician Robert AA Lowe, who records as Lichens occupies the lead role, but his presence is rarely magnetic, and the film struggles to hang together. Hypnotic in places, but ultimately low on insight, A Spell … will be a stretch, even for hardened art-house cinema devotees. Indeed, even if you can appreciate the filmmakers’ uncompromising vision you may struggle to appreciate their message and ultimately enjoy their film. Suffice to say, A Spell … is one of the least commercial art-house films that I have ever seen, and dare I say, one of the least enjoyable…