Starring: Ashley Chin, Jason Maza, Ashley Madekwe, Michael Maris, Adam Deacon, David Harewood, Leititia Wright, Shanika Warren-Markland
In cinemas June 22nd
A slew of what are described as “gritty urban dramas” have come out of the UK in the past few years, including the hugely successful Kidulthood and the critically acclaimed Wild Bill. This is the latest addition to the genre and when I saw that the always wonderful David Harewood was attached to it I had very high hopes.
It tells the story of Tyson, Mannie and Jason, who grew up in a tough inner city environment. Turning to crime to pay the bills they are not purely motivated by greed, with Tyson having to support his 15-year-old sister Nyla after being abandoned by their mother, who also left them with her huge gambling debt to pay off.
When a cousin of one of their cohorts, Tia, is introduced into the fold Tyson is immediately affected by her. Having been well brought up in a nice home by her architect father she is oblivious to the criminal ways of those around her and helps show him that there are other ways out of the poverty trap. However, the temptation of one last big job lures him back in and it will have huge repercussions for everyone.
Harewood plays Tyson’s sister’s teacher and is horrendously underused here as he is quite possibly the one thing that could elevate this movie from its cliché ridden mess. It has a lot of underlying potential but many of the performances are very weak and every single character is a stereotype. The urban soundtrack blares throughout and the sound editor clearly thought it was more important than the dialogue as there are times when it is difficult to hear what’s being said over the music. Some very clunky editing doesn’t help either.
The filmmakers are trying to get across the underlying message that we are all victims – even the criminals who are victims of their social circumstances. In case we don’t get the point the character of Nyla writes a poem about it for a school project. However, for this tack to work you have to feel sympathy for the characters and while Tyson has undoubtedly had a difficult life it doesn’t detract from the violent crimes you see him commit. Despite his many sob stories about his reasons for stealing he never once expresses any sympathy for his actual victims.
Director Pillai clearly felt that the characters were more sympathetic than they are but the reality is that most of them are thugs and thieves – pure and simple – and it is difficult to care when tragedy befalls them.
A subplot involving Tia’s ex-boyfriend is also just plain silly in its execution and when it reaches it’s conclusion you actually feel relief rather than sympathy.
This could have been great if more attention had been paid to capturing performances and cinematography and sound. As it stands it is messy and underwhelming and is unlikely to garner kudos for promoting the moralistic message that it seems to think it does.