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|Index||13 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
From the moment a detective races down a couple of floors and catches a
suicidal woman in mid-air to save her from falling 100 feet to her
death, you know you are watching something VERY special. Unfortunately,
special in every worst possible way. Curiously, a bit further on, a 4
year old child - getting a piggy-back down a lift rope from some guy -
loses his grip, falls, and amazingly is caught cleanly in one hand by
his mother, who isn't even looking.
There are some riveting scenes about a group of lads inexplicably setting fire to everything. They all look like they've just crossed straight from the set of Mad Max 3, and cannot at any point in the film, be taken seriously.
Whether this is trying to be 'Towering Inferno', 'Die Hard' or 'Escape from New York', we just don't know. What we do know, is that it shouldn't be trying. We just end up lurching from one ridiculously absurd disaster to another. Social realism you say? When was the last time you heard about somebody fannying about in a lift shaft in an abandoned block of flats in the middle of nowhere?
I've waited to watch this for a long time . Round about the same time
Paul McGann was cast as The Doctor in the American DOCTOR WHO
television movie it was announced he'd be starring in a British DIE
HARD type of thriller called DOWNTIME . That's what the exact phrase
was " A British version of DIE HARD " and being a DOCTOR WHO fan
there's nothing I and many other fans would have liked more seeing a
former DOCTOR WHO being as famous as Bruce Willis . I heard absolutely
nothing more about DOWNTIME until it was broadcast on Channel 4 a
couple of years ago which I somehow managed to miss . I didn't see it
until last night and to be blunt I didn't miss much
The fact that it's set in Newcastle and filmed in Liverpool ( Let this be the final word on settings and locations ) sums up the whole movie - It's something it's not in the same way Newcastle is not really Newcastle and this is not really a British DIE HARD , it's a love story except for much of the running time the movie meanders in lots of directions . For a few minutes it thinks it's a crime thriller , then decides it's going to be a kitchen sink drama , then gets up on its soap box to scream what a terrible place modern Britain is . Maybe an appropriate title for the movie might have been DIE HARD : TRY HARDER AT KEEPING A SCRIPT FOCUSED ?
It's not just the lack of focus that's a problem ( Though that's the main one ) it's other things too . Can anyone buy into Rob falling in love with Chrissy ? Neither can I . And I notice this is a French co-production . Perhaps I would have understood the dialogue better if it was spoken in fluent French because I had a serious problem making out the broad Geordie accents . Oh and unsurprisingly the film gets comes to a halt which led me to believe the last ten minutes ended up on the cutting room floor
DOWNTIME is a very ironic film since its often revolves a lift . Lifts can only go up or down but this movie moves in so many unlikely directions
This movie fascinated me for reasons other reviewers have mentioned. How on earth was such a camel created? DownTime was funded independently and mainly by (UK TV's) Channel 4 who are developing a fine tradition in backing wonderful films. Ken Loach meets Towering Inferno? Well you may not agree with Ken Loach's politics (I do) but he has a coherent world view. "Social comment"? What social comment? Poor caretakers are to blame? Just to locate a movie in a working class area of NEWCASTLE (not Liverpool!) means nothing. In such settings, unless writers suggest hope or an alternative then inferred conclusions are likely to be reactionary: the poor are to blame for their own misery, working-class youth are demons who must be crushed (as Jack Straw agrees). The suggestion that Susan can do well for herself by dating middle-class Rob is repulsive. I personally thought Susan Lynch acted better than Paul McGann - but who cares? I thought McCann stunk. OK he got dealt a bad hand: the script is so poor. However, I do not put this down to his character being a "ditz" - so what! This is when ACTING is called for. The weird thing is that the script occasionally suggests that the writer might have come into contact with humans. That's what is so perplexing about this film: the occasional suggestion that something better could have been created. I can only explain this movie as a cowardly retreat in face of criticism from the philistine right-wing on what films are funded. Happy to discuss ...
When police psychologist Rob is called to a run-down and near empty
council tower block he (sort of) helps to rescue Chrissy from an
attempted suicide. However the media spotlight temporarily placed on
those that live in the squalid and crime-infested environment brings
the yobbish actions of the teenage Jacko to the fore not something he
likes and he immediately stamps his authority back onto the flats. Rob
however, can't stop thinking about Chrissy and returns to the flats to
see her again, which is probably not that good an idea.
The idea seems simple enough and, although on a bigger budget and with guns the claustrophobic setting of a tower block (of sorts) worked well in Die Hard. However the problems in Downtime are far too great to overcome the weak characters, the lack of pace, the simplicity of the plot and the generally average writing. The film looks good with the grimy dankness of a council tower block but other than that it is sorely lacking in most areas. The plot creates some tense moments but mostly it stops and starts, to the detriment of the film; generally the story doesn't work as an idea and lacks the sort of tension it needs. Likewise the contrast between the visual style and the main characters doesn't work the flirting between Chrissy and Rob might have worked in a big silly action movie but with such grim "reality" all around it just doesn't ring true and neither of them are any good as characters. The rest of the block's inhabitants are also weak and they contribute to the lack of involvement I felt in the story.
The cast try hard but they can't really get the tone of the film any better than the director or writer. McGann is OK but he is a bit too annoying to lead the film. Lynch has energy but her constant swearing and the lack of "reality" in her character means that she doesn't fit that well in another film she would have been the best thing but here she is just part of the problem. Graham and his gang are off-the-shelf clichés without any real value other than plot devices while the rest of the cast are OK in filler roles.
Overall a fairly average film at best. It has some tense moments but the whole thing lacks consistency across the characters, the action and the whole tone. It probably does enough to distract but very little of it seems to fit together convincingly and I'd lost interest in it long before the silly and dull hospital denouncement.
Downtime is not for anyone who is afraid of lifts. The claustrophobic
atmosphere in this film is the best thing about it. In fact, I've used lifts
all my life without giving them a second thought, but even I found myself
taking the stairs for a month or two after watching this.
The story features an educated police negotiator and a foul-mouthed working class mother on the brink of suicide. They have virtually nothing in common, but one evening they find themselves trapped in an elevator. To complicate matters further, some troublesome kids start a fire in the same tower block which rapidly gets out of control.
There is an unconvincing love element to the story which makes parts of it hard to swallow. However, I was prepared to forgive the film for this unlikely plot development because as mentioned before the closed-in atmosphere is brilliantly captured. However, near the end the film does something truly unforgivable. For no reason at all, it suddenly brings in a half-hearted revenge subplot which belongs in another movie and uses it to end a film which has already reached a satisfying conclusion. The sheer stupidity of having a film set almost entirely in a lift suddenly switch location to a hospital room, with an angry father waving a rifle around, utterly undermines the good work that has gone before. Such a shame! Surely the two protagonists should have escaped from the lift and that should have been that.
Worth seeing, then, but it's best if you switch it off about ten minutes from the end.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Imagine Die Hard directed by Mike Leigh and the result is Downtime , an exciting if somewhat predictable British thriller. It kicks off with a suicide attempt. The gorgeous Susan Lynch is stood on the edge of a high rise, her son hanging onto her, helicopter hovering: The perfect intro for any movie. Will she jump? Stay tuned as what unfolds is a highly likeable slice of escapism grounded in kitchen sink-style domestic reality.
The setting is Newcastle upon Tyne though it could have been LA or Tokyo. The backdrop is irrelevant. The squalid skyscraper is very depressing but the characters likeable and the threat all too believable.
Inevitably there is a negotiator sent in to help talk her down. Rob (McGann) is an ex-police psychologist brought back to do one last job. He has severe asthma (a signpost for the future drama that unfolds) and vertigo, but face to face with scrummy single mum Chrissy (Lynch) and her cute as a button four-year-old son Jake (Adam Johnston), he soon gets his act together.
Slight drawback: Naturally he manages to help her in and naturally the suicide jump soon turns into a genuine fight for survival as she slips and is soon hanging by her fingernails.
Yes, it's tense but it's also a huge cliche.
Rob comes back the next day (and which red blooded bloke wouldn't?) to ask for a date but they make it to the left with a doddering pensioner and there the second act really takes off.
A band of nefarious teens have vandalised the equipment and you don't need to be a genius to realise its soon going to be a case of life or death as our heroes yo yo between floors.
For much of the movie, the script is very good. Lynch spouts her dialogue with gusto and McGann is a likeable leading man in a tricky situation.
The fatal flaw is the last scenes when Nalluri attempts to tie all the strands together and ends up with a ridiculous Four Weddings and a Funeral-style finale in a hospital ward.
Obviously made for no money, cast and crew do wonders with the material and although it sank without a trace on release in Feb 1998, it deserves a look on TV or video.
Just give the feelgood ending a miss.
Mr Nalluri may well have seen this film as his shoo in on the Hollywood
time, but his inability to direct actors (as opposed to "great action
sequences") puts him in the queue behind all the other explosion-meisters
beard, baseball cap and movie logo bomber jacket are also required for
80's derivative member's club).
The film's rather flimsy premise - drug-fuelled thugs wreek havoc on the occupants of a Newcastle tower block - could be seen as a brave attempt to couple Loachian observation with the action movie genre, but it's simply a rather crass attempt to add gritty realism to a juvenile plot.
Paul McGann tries his best under the circumstances (as does Tom Georgeson), but the actors take second place in this film... The lift gets all the 'best' scenes.
'Downtime' was hailed as a calling card for one of Britain's exciting young directors. I think Mr Nalluri needs to get out more.
This is a script which must have appealed on paper to the actors - there's
lots and lots of snappy dialogue - BUT the pacing, structure and action
sequences are woeful and in the end it leaves Paul McGann, Susan Lynch and
Tom Georgeson, to name but three, in limbo, mouthing silly platitudes at the
end and embarrassing themselves and us in the process.
So who's to blame - the writer or the director? And how come those producers from Channel 4 etc got involved? Couldn't they suss out this dog beforehand?
The photography (from Tony Imi) is dark and gloomy, appropriately enough, as most of the film is set in a filthy tenement lift shaft, but it makes for an unrelievedly gloomy look.
There's little attempt to show lives and characters other than during the action .
The film is mainly a real-time story, with a prequel where the two protagonists "meet cute" - she's hanging off a balcony & he's sort of trying to rescue her. Then we go to real-time lift shaft fun, followed by some truly mawkish stuff in the hospital at the end. Poor Tom Georgeson is given no real motivation for his actions.
Paul McGann does what he can with the script but he's playing such a ditz that one feels he'd be better off in some nursing home for the terminally frightened. He's also called upon to do illogical and stupid things (what a surprise, in this film). Susan Lynch plays with energy but again, it's a cardboard character with no reality, derived from memories of Hollywood films & television sitcoms. Again, she has to crawl up & down steel cables (as one so frequently does) whilst dressed in a slip of a dress and a cardigan....
Bharat Nalluri's 'Downtime' is a curiously assembled film; one part social realism to one part disaster movie. It combines a portrayal of working class life (albeit a very extreme depiction) with a sequence of thriller-style life-or-death moments; between them, the film's characters face death not just through the incident which is the film's centrepiece, a lift failure, but also through suicide, asthma, a potential shooting and two separate fires. Structurally, the film is also odd, as the lift-based story occupies the bulk of the film, but a further dramatic incident (by no means a necessary continuation) ensures that the conclusion links only weakly to what has gone before. But there are some pluses. Some of the scenes are shot very effectively (one made me physically wince), and Paul McGann and Susan Lynch play off each other nicely in the lead role (although another strange twist is that while Lynch's young son features in almost every scene, he appears to be virtually dumb, as he hardly speaks a line in the entire film). Nalluri is perhaps a director to watch on the basis of the talent he shows here; he just needs to work out what sort of movies he wants to make first.
Paul McGann plays an asthmatic police shrink with a fear of heights (and sore feet) who saves a woman from committing suicide. He then decides to ask her out on a date, but they -and her little son- end up in a collapsing elevator in the woman's apartment building (located in a poor district of Liverpool, where everything looks like something out of an Aki Kaurismäki-film). An odd mix of social comment with echoes of -would you believe- "The Towering Inferno"! In the end we don't really care what happens to any of the characters. All though you might ask yourself why the buildings sick and demented juveniles (who plays a major role in the elevator-incident) suddenly disappear for a major portion of the film.
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