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Shifty, a young crack cocaine dealer in London, sees his life quickly spiral out of control when his best friend returns home. Stalked by a customer desperate to score at all costs, and with his family about to turn their back on him for good, Shifty must out-run and out-smart a rival drug dealer, intent on setting him up for a big fall. As his long time friend Chris, confronts the dark past he left behind him, Shifty is forced to face up to the violent future he's hurtling towards. Written by
Shifty is a young drug dealer living with his older brother and earning a couple of grand a week. When an old friend comes to stay with him and asks him to come back up to Manchester to a safer, cleaner life, it marks the start of a rough day for Shifty, as his normal drop-offs are complicated by one customer who goes off the rails, and a rumour that has made it back to Shifty's supplier that he is cutting the product and selling for himself on the side.
Made for as little as £100k (which would not even buy you a one-second Megan Fox pout) this film is to be admired for how good it looks considering the constraints of the budget. However if praise was given out to independent films made for no money then there would not be enough to go around as there are plenty of similar attempts just many of them really do show the lack of resource in all areas. It is not the case with Shifty because the film is an effective and well made affair that engages by virtue of how it is put together. The story is reasonably straightforward but it is written with a wider story behind it one that we perhaps don't get all of but one that impacts onto the characters and their relationships and makes for a stronger character set and a more interesting film. I was interested in both Shifty and Chris as people as well as the grubby little world they inhabit.
On top of this the day in question also has some violent risks for Shifty and these add a semi-thriller touch to the story. Again, this isn't totally fleshed out all for the viewer to see but it works as it goes. It isn't perfect as a story but it does well to juggle a couple of different characters to add to the flow of the narrative while also avoiding being judgemental about any of them your conclusion may be "drugs are bad m'kay" but the film does not seem to have that as an agenda but is just focused on telling the story.
The cast deserve credit for working on such a low budget film; OK they are not Hollywood stars used to commanding millions but there are several faces that will be recognisable from big films. The star of the film is Riz Ahmed, who does well for once not playing someone associated with 9/11 films. He is a likable character but he also conveys that edge of toughness and threat that he needs. He does good work with his face and eyes to ensure the viewer can sort of appreciate his thoughts without them being rammed down your throat. Mays has less of a showy role but he does the same hits the character well and makes him convincing from the start and throughout, only weakening a little bit towards the end when I expected him to convey the impact of events a little better. Flemyng is a solid presence and a good face to help the film, while Simpson's Trevor is a tragic figure and he plays it well, making him a real person rather than a simple plot device to be either pitied or hated.
Shifty is not a brilliant film to be sure, it is far to slight for that but it is a particularly good one. It isn't social realism but it has an authenticity to it that helps make it work, with the well written and performed characters providing a strong base for the narrative to be built on. If it had cost ten times as much to make I still would have liked it but that it was made for so little is an impressive thing of note.
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