Follows a gang of small time crooks in an English town. Malc is in danger of losing his girlfriend Kate if he doesn't spend more time at home and the gang leader Jumbo looks like he is ... See full summary »
A story about a troubled boy growing up in England, set in 1983. He comes across a few skinheads on his way home from school, after a fight. They become his new best friends even like family. Based on experiences of director Shane Meadows.
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Follows a gang of small time crooks in an English town. Malc is in danger of losing his girlfriend Kate if he doesn't spend more time at home and the gang leader Jumbo looks like he is about to lose control. Written by
Brian Rawnsley <email@example.com>
Interesting early Meadows piece, which explores enough in the way of characterisation and pent-up aggression in a world of low level living, to just about get by.
The little operation the leads in Shane Meadows' 1996 film Small Time head up is referred to by one of them as a "family business", but we're a long way from The Godfather territory here, as the crime ridden lives and antagonistic relations that are shared between those close to one another in and around a designated zone come to form the nucleus of a crime film you feel is about people whom might actually exist. Meadows' film is an ambitious piece, the debut film from someone whom has since gone on to produce far more accomplished work but here manages to etch out the best of an amateur cast asked to perform well above their capabilities whilst working within what appears to be the constraints of a minimal budget with which invention and a fair degree of style is implemented upon the piece. The film eventually comes to resemble something more interesting as a retrospective piece; the witnessing of a film-maker planting the foundations of a career in a film you wouldn't even be watching had you not already been aware of him.
Small Time somewhat successfully balances the elements of comedy, crime and genre non-specific character based realism; the film is relatively funny in rather-a blackish manner, the essence of the Dogma movement certainly prominent at certain times with the sense of a man feeling his way into feature film-making simultaneously subscribing to a kitchen-sink approach additionally feeling prominent. Its primary interest is to tell a tale about a handful of lowlifes just living in England; living in their houses, with the friends and lovers in and around, doing what they do. The film's branching off into causality driven territory within the crime genre when the robbing of an establishment becomes the focus is a jump Meadows doesn't quite manage as effectively as he would later come to do so in something like 2006's This is England; a film portraying a hostile and pent-up world from the perspective of a grieving youngster whom becomes more deeply involved with a gang of youths. The trick there seeing Meadows paint the initial exchanges with those in the gang as carefree and fun, the lead developed friends and began to enjoy life again before a distinct turn into a more bleaker realm reared its head.
The clan are made up of a group of people in their late twenties, early thirties; the primary two of whom are Malc, played by once-Meadows regular Mat Hand and Jumbo, who's played by Meadows himself. At home, their women banter with one another and suffer from frustrations born out of the relationships they have with their neighbours and the volatile relationship Ruby (Kawecka) has with Jumbo. The Nottingham based crew are not the brightest nor the sharpest, the kinds of people whom go out of their way to carefully calculate the stealing of a load of dog-food from the rear of a store before making it all the way to the getaway vehicle only to begin arguing in the middle of the street over how old you need to be to obtain an HGV licence. In their own words, and echoing what a certain infamous individual from the very city in which they're based lived by, they "rob from the rich and give to the poor" so as to get by. In truth, they rob from the poor only to provide to the poorer, that is to say, themselves; a crafty little scheme cooked up at a car-boot sale of all places sees them put their plans into action as an array of items are stolen from a table as another member distracts the retailer, thus illustrating the sort of life they lead so as to get by.
The characters are, as the title suggests, small time but they're wanting to move out into the big time. At the centre appears the question as to whether the men are willing to go down a crime fuelled path if it means loosing their women, those of whom want the opposite and wish to get out and away from everything they despise about where they are: their housing, the people around them and the sorts of lives they lead. On a wholly positive note, Kate and Ruby are refreshingly strong characters; Meadows granting them screen time and going on to some impressive lengths so as to deconstruct what it is they feel and think. One sequence sees Kate verbally highlight how disenchanted she is with being stuck in the two bedroom terrace in which they live and relegated to the kitchen, itself a representation of domesticisation, as her man Malc permits himself to go out and enjoy himself.
Where light comedy through dialogue and somewhat amusing altercations as the lads come to acquire goods and products generally dominate, that sense of it leading or building to something thoroughly worth demonising in armed robbery is prominent. As mentioned, Meadows doesn't quite nail the shifting nor the towing and froing in tone that he would later come to execute rather well, particularly in the aforementioned This is England as well as 2004's revenge thriller Dead Man's Shoes, which you distinctly felt shift right nearer the end. Regardless, you admire the ambition in the effort even if it is a little underwhelming but there are ideas and specific approaches to specific material that's worth checking out and placing in context thus culminating in a just-about worthwhile film watching experience.
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