Frustrated filmmaker, Barry Lick, and a crew of film school wannabees, attempt to make a documentary about a local businessman who he believes is involved in property rackets, prostitution, pornography and drugs.
Film school tutor, Barry Lick, has been suspended on full pay accused of 'gross professional misconduct'. But he's got a spring in his step because it means he's just been handed the chance to try and make a sensationalist crime documentary which might just save his career. Even better he can do it all on the cheap; he's still being payed and there's ex-students out there who are willing to work for nothing more than empty promises. Barry's quest is going nowhere - that is until security consultant, Tommy Morghen, appears on the scene. And it's not long before Barry's plunged into a world of sub-prime mortgages, blackmail, corruption, knife crime, extreme German S&M pornography, castration, corpse disposal, gang-rape and, ultimately, murder. But what's Tommy's interest in all this? Is it that he just wants fame and notoriety, or does he have another agenda? Barry puts questions like these to the back of his mind. All he knows is that, in the age of reality TV, sensationalism sells - ... Written by
Pleased Sheep Productions (press release)
I saw Bad Lad at a special preview staged as part of the Kinofilm Manchester International Short Film Festival in February 2005. My expectations weren't particularly high. A DV film shot over four years in and around Blackburn by a bunch of amateurs in their spare time? Going to be absolutely riveting...right? Ninety minutes later I was gob-smacked to find that, yes, it WAS absolutely riveting. From the opening sequence, when the slimy/sinister Tommy Morghen character (brilliantly underplayed by Joe O'Byrne) introduces the story, to the final denouement when we find out why he is doing so, the audience is drawn into the film and not let go for a second. I came out of the theatre with the surprising realisation that I'd enjoyed Bad Lad more than any feature I'd seen over the past twelve months - despite the fact that the other contenders had enjoyed a budget at least a thousand times bigger (Bad Lad was shot for little over £3,000).
So, what makes Bad Lad so incredibly good? Jonathan Williams has crafted a cracking script which is witty, harrowing, thought-provoking, funny and chilling in turn. Borrowing from a number of different genres, it can't be comfortably pigeonholed into any of them. There was only one scene which didn't ring completely true to me, but this was soon forgotten when I got caught up in the action again immediately afterwards. (Even so, it was nowhere near the magnitude of the scene in Blair Witch where, now that they're lost, one of the characters decides to throw the map away. Why is it that so many other films depend upon their characters being so completely dumb in order to carry the plot?).
The standard of acting, from a cast almost totally made up of complete unknowns, is exemplary. On the couple of occasions where it seems a little stilted, these are actors playing ordinary guys who are obviously self-conscious at being filmed by a documentary crew - so the results still ring completely true. Director Michael Booth has done a fantastic job with the tools he was given. The confident and assured touch he demonstrates throughout is quite remarkable for a first-time feature director and I'm sure it will by no means be the last time I see his name on an end credits roll.
Where Bad Lad is concerned, between them Williams and Booth have pulled off that most difficult of filmic feats - creating something new. The breath of fresh air Bad Lad represents (compared to the formulaic fare we're usually treated to) completely blew me away. If this film doesn't eventually make a bigger splash than did Blair Witch there's no justice in the universe.
I've heard that, as a result of the Kinofilm Manchester preview, the producers have been able put Bad Lad through colour grading on Sumners' Da Vinci 2K for the final cut. I can't wait to see it. When it secures a theatrical release (as I'm sure it will) - Be There!
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