Four-part Channel 4 drama Run (Delta Leisure) weaves together the distinct stories of four seemingly unconnected individuals in contemporary London. Faced with tough decisions and bleak prospects, our protagonists exist in moral grey areas of their own choosing, where one snap-decision can send a life spiralling into chaos.
In the opening story strand chain-smoking, lager-swilling single mother Carol (Olivia Colman, Tyrannosaur, Peep Show) is forced to choose between her feral, uncontrollable sons and her obligation to do the right thing after a violent altercation on her housing estate.
Meanwhile, the abrupt end of Carol’s agreement to sell stolen mobile phones to illegal Chinese immigrant Ying (Katie Leung, Harry Potter) means that the youngster is unable to pay her debt to the sadistic ‘Snakehead’ gang that smuggled her into Britain.
Struggling to make ends meet, Ying finds herself flogging bootleg DVDs to the likes of Richard (Lennie James, Line of Duty), a recovering heroin addict desperate to establish a connection with his estranged teenage daughter. Elsewhere, in the final instalment Polish cleaner Kasia (Katharina Schüttler, Carlos The Jackal) find her world turned upside down following a series of shocking revelations about her missing boyfriend.
The first slice of drama – powered by a career-best performance from the increasingly impressive Olivia Colman – sets an intimidating precedent, and you fear that the subsequent episodes may struggle to maintain the quality. Thankfully, that isn’t an issue, and the story never flags. Aside from the headline actors – all of whom deliver the goods – the supporting cast is fleshed out with genuinely disturbing performances from the likes of Benedict Wong (Sunshine) and Neil Maskell (Kill List), adding to the overall quality of the project.
With a solid concept that arguably has enough potential for a second series – perhaps picking up with Jaime Winstone’s exotic dancer from the final instalment? – Run is a bold, accomplished drama that pulls no punches in its unflinching depiction of modern Britain. With shades of Stephen Frears’ Dirty Pretty Things, as well as Plan B’s recent Ill Manors, Run imbues its TV-ready set-up with an impressive cinematic scope. Interestingly, writers Daniel Fajemisin-Duncan and Marlon Smith resist the temptation to alleviate the misery with humour – dark or otherwise – and Run is bleak, nasty and gripping from the outset.
Three unrelenting hours of casual violence, heroin addiction and people trafficking may be a tough sell to audiences looking for a little bit of summer cheer, but anyone who likes their dramas gritty with a side order of unpleasantness won’t go far wrong.
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The film may also raise the issue of inpatient heroin rehab and treatment options.
Welcome To The Punch (eOne) is writer-director Eran Creevy’s follow-up to the acclaimed low-budget crime drama Shifty. Three years after almost crippling over-achieving young detective Max Lewinsky (James McAvoy, The Last King of Scotland) in the aftermath of a lucrative heist, master criminal Jacob Sternwood (Mark Strong, Kick-Ass, Sherlock Holmes) is forced to return to his old stomping ground when his son gets shot in the stomach. Sternwood’s abrupt reappearance gives Lewinsky the chance to take down his old nemesis, but as their bullet-strewn cat-and-mouse game unfolds, the two men realise that sinister forces are at play, and find themselves working together to unravel a dark conspiracy in which corrupt cops seem to pull all the strings…
Former music video director Creevy’s second feature is half a world away from his enjoyably raw debut, trading in the gritty council estate aesthetic for an altogether slicker approach. Seemingly taking his cues from the likes of Michael Mann – not to mention any number of duplicitous Hong Kong crime thrillers – Welcome To The Punch is a deliberately high-octane undertaking that attempts to beat Hollywood at its own game. Unfortunately, Creevy’s ambition is also his undoing, and the movie feels emotionally hollow at its core.
With an enviable supporting cast including the likes of David Morrissey (The Walking Dead), Peter Mullan (My Name Is Joe) and Johnny Harris (This Is England ’86) – as well as Shifty stars Daniel Mays and Jason Flemyng – Welcome To The Punch boasts top-drawer credentials to go with its slick visuals, only to lose its way with a patchy script and a too-many-cooks-spoil-the-broth feel. Never less than entertaining, the movie should tap into an appreciative audience on DVD, but feels like less than the sum of its parts. Unfortunately, the fact that the best British action movies in recent memory are Hot Fuzz and Attack the Block only serves to emphasise how po-faced Creevy’s latest effort feels in comparison.