Sex, Leins & Videotape #58: Brit-flick special! Paignton film critic Tom Leins checks out the ‘Best of British’ with this week’s DVD reviews.
The Disappearance of Alice Creed (Icon) is a deranged psychodrama about a pair of ex-convicts who abduct a beautiful heiress, stash her in a fortified safe-house, and wait until her wealthy father coughs up the multi-million pound ransom.
After a smooth start – for the rigorously prepared criminals, if not for the shell-shocked Alice – the increasingly brutal scheme starts to go awry, and the incarcerated Alice attempts to claw back some control over her bickering captors. As the plot starts to unravel it becomes apparent that nothing is quite what it seems, and the murderous tensions look set to boil over at any moment.
In a tense three-hander such as this, the cast all need to pull their weight, and director J Blakeson coaxes top-drawer performances out of all three leads. The radiant Gemma Arterton delivers arguably her finest performance yet as debased hostage Alice and she is joined by a brilliantly menacing Eddie Marsan (far removed from his buttoned-up persona in breakthrough role Happy Go Lucky) and a deceptively earnest Martin Compston. With an inventive narrative that gleefully pulls the rug out from under the viewer’s feet time and time again, Alice Creed is one of the freakiest Brit-crime thrillers in recent memory – and one of my favourite home-grown movies of the year. Heavily recommended.
Kidulthood star Noel Clarke cemented himself as the Renaissance man of British cinema when he seized control of the gritty franchise that made his name, and directed a superior sequel in the form of Adulthood. After bit-part roles in movies like Heartless and Centurion, Clarke steps back behind the camera for another crack at directing. 126.96.36.199 (Universal) is the result. The movie follows the exploits of four very different friends: feisty lesbian Kerrys (Shanika Warren-Markland), jet-setting socialite Cassandra (Tamsin Egerton), frustrated supermarket employee Jo (Emma Roberts) and depressive Shannon (Ophelia Lovibond). As the four girls embark on their own very different lives, fate has a curious way of bringing them back together, and they unwittingly become embroiled in an international diamond heist.
After a dodgy start 188.8.131.52 develops into an enjoyably lightweight caper, with the four lead actresses possessing the requisite charisma to smooth over the rough patches in the inevitably contrived script. Writer/director Noel Clarke has spoken of his admiration for the work of Quentin Tarantino in the past, and 184.108.40.206’s four-pronged structure makes use of a QT-style intersecting narrative timeline approach – giving the proceedings a slightly overcooked feel. Part frothy chick-flick, part gritty Brit-flick, 220.127.116.11 makes for a strange viewing experience, which is intensified by the rogue’s gallery of guest stars, who include Kevin Smith of Clerks fame. In conclusion, if Sex and the City directed by Guy Ritchie sounds like your cup of tea then you’ve come to the right place! (Hell, if the cynical ending is anything to go by, there’s even a sequel in the works!)
Set against the backdrop of the 7/7 bombings in 2005, London River (Trinity) is a haunting, evocative culture-clash drama about the experiences of two very different and seemingly unconnected people as they search for their respective children in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. Elizabeth (Brenda Blethyn) is an uptight widow from Guernsey, who heads to London after the explosion in order to track down the uncommunicative daughter who isn’t returning her calls. Also in London is Ousmane, an African Muslim who lives in France – again determined to track down his estranged son.
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Amid the human wreckage of the bomb blast, these two bewildered outsiders discover some unexpected common ground, and forge an unlikely friendship as they put their differences aside and help one another to forge a path across the chaotic urban sprawl of London. Boasting excellent performances from a hostile, xenophobic Brenda Blethyn and a languid, contemplative Sotigui Kouyate, London River is a sombre multi-cultural drama that offers a vivid response to the inexplicable terrors of the 7/7 attacks.
Interestingly, the movie was written and directed by French-Algerian filmmaker Rachid Bouchareb, who drew on his own European-based experiences of suspicion and alienation post-9/11. Moving stuff.
Directed by first time director James Abadi, The Story of F*** (Network) is a garish music industry satire about a group of indie no-hopers who are manipulated into becoming next big thing in order to destroy the reputation of a sleazy talent scout. Lewis Sipricosh (Finlay Robertson) is a downtrodden A&R man at Kosmos Records, desperate to discover the next big thing, and catapult himself into the big leagues. Belittled at every turn by his sneaky colleague Gilford Bell (Lee Boardman, Coronation Street), Lewis relies on the wits of his ambitious assistant Daisy (Tamsin Egerton, 18.104.22.168) to hatch a plan that will savage his smug rival’s career beyond repair.
Bankrolled by transgender actor Desire Dubonet, who also pops up in his/her first major film role – I’m not familiar with the rest of Mr Dubonet’s CV unfortunately – The Story of F*** is a seriously unusual movie with a seriously strange cast. Up and coming Brit actress Tamsin Egerton sticks out like a sore thumb among the massed ranks of soap opera refugees (including Joe Absolom from Eastenders), but the uneven script does the ensemble cast few favours. The Story of F*** is frustrating inasmuch as it possesses an undeniable visual flair, only to flounder every time it seeks to progress the flimsy narrative. The enthusiastic cast ensure that the film is breezily watchable, but the weak plot makes it very difficult to recommend. Quite frankly, I thought that people stopped making these kind of self-consciously wacky movies in the 90s.