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Just caught Wasteland this past weekend at TIFF and was pleasantly
surprised by a solid production from a first time writer/director. As a
heist film aficionado I approached the film warily but my friends and I
were pleased to find our fears were unwarranted. At first I was a bit
non-plussed by the slower pace of the plot. But then I realized that
director Rowan Athale was taking the time to tuck wayward threads back
into his tapestry before they got unruly and it really paid off.
The casting was well done, Luke Treadaway and Vanessa Kirby had excellent chemistry together. Charlie and Dodds' camaraderie was excellent. It was very clear what the motivations were for the crew as well as the antagonists.
In the QnA after the show, Rowan explained that Wasteland was chosen as the title because of the hopeless locale the characters were situated in. No one can expect to have anything, to make anything of themselves. Even the character who was learning a welding trade was mocked for clinging to false hopes. Perhaps it also explains D.I. West's wry smile as he makes a decision hidden from the audience.
At any rate I am sure that Rowan Athale will use this title to leverage himself out the wasteland of indy film making. This production will turn some heads and this director/writer is one to watch.
I got to catch this at TIFF (My first film ever seen at the festival)
and loved it. Great story, pacing, soundtrack, cinematography, writing,
acting and direction. First-time writer-director Rowan Athale gets it
right. My only problem was that he tries to do too much in his debut.
What he does is great, but if he had tried to maybe do less in terms of
covering the norms of heist and crime films, i.e. the ____ steps of
committing a crime successfully. That's it. Timothy Dalton and Luke
Treadway have great back and forth dialogue, and just when you think
the film is over and you have unanswered questions, your questions are
answered and you are given more of the brilliant story, and a great
ending that perfectly ties up everything.
I'm not sure if this will appeal to North American audiences, but it looks like it could be a huge hit in the UK. I loved it, and I highly recommend it.
If by chance you happen to have read the plot summary prior to this
review and also kept up with the latest British crime flicks, then
please believe me when I say this. Although at first look, this may
look to be yet another in a long line of dodgy Uk crime yarns. This
film, "Wasteland" , is in fact, the real deal. Being an American, ever
since back in 98' when "Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" exploded
onto the scene, I've been catching everything related to the genre and
the locale. In that span of time there has been many brilliant films,
but unfortunately there has also been a number of cheap knock offs made
for the singular purpose of making a quick buck, again not the case
here. First time writer/director Rowan Athale has delivered a fresh,
smartly written screenplay and directed it in a slick, exciting manner.
As the summary suggests, this formula has been delivered in the past in
a variety of techniques. Despite this, Athale has taken his vision,
skillfully applied it, combined it with a most capable cast, making for
one fun and very engaging film experience.
So as "Wasteland" begins, it introduces Harvey (Luke Treadaway), in a bloody and bruised state, sitting in police custody, across the table from D I West (Timothy Spall). The interrogation by West is just in the beginning stages, we here Harvey is just a fews weeks out of prison after serving a year for innocently taking the fall for a local dealer which for all intensive purposes destroyed his life. Much worse, he's now being held on charges of attempted murder of local businessman Steven Roper, the man responsible for the sinister act that put him in prison in the first place. Before we get to hear much more of the story, the film then rewinds back to when Harvey was picked up from prison by his mate Dempsey, (Iwan Rheon). We are shown the brother like bond he shares with his best mates and the deep set loyalty they have for one another. The group comes up with an ingenious plan to set the record straight once and for all. In the meantime Harvey tries to reconnect with his previous girlfriend Nicola, the stunning (Vanessa Kirby) . What unfolds here is a sometimes funny, exciting, suspenseful and truly engaging story.
This is where I normally would criticize any lows the film may have possessed, such as acting that wasn't believable or up to par, production values that felt low and cinematography or editing that could have been better, but after just catching it again for a second time, I just cannot find any inferior qualities that this film possessed. Instead, I will commend other elements that had a positive affect, one being the sound department, while much of the film was relatively quiet, in the instances where it was used, it managed to provoke emotion and produce a feeling of connection to the film and it's characters. Again, much respect due to Rowan Athale, if this was his first you can count me in for any of his future ventures.
OK i don't review much stuff (indeed this is probably my first film review) but i feel like this film needs a little helping hand. This film is above average for your standard Brit flick, the acting is great, the story bounces along nicely & the overall plot is clever. If you like a good honest film, with decent acting, a nice bit of revenge, a nice bit of robbery, and a nice bit of violence, get this one watched. It seems to have been off a lot of people radars but it certainly deserves a wider audience, if you liked lock stock, or the bank job etc, in fact if you like any sort of heist/revenge scenario, this is a definite for your watch list. 7* from me but i can understand people scoring it that little bit higher, it really is a good watch.
STAR RATING: ***** Saturday Night **** Friday Night *** Friday Morning
** Sunday Night * Monday Morning
Harvey (Luke Treadaway) is a bright boy with his head screwed on, who has just been released from prison after being framed for drug dealing by the villainous Roper (Neil Maskell), who was none too pleased that Harvey got shacked up with his ex, Nicola (Vanessa Kirby.) But now he finds himself in an interview room with D.I. West (Timothy Spall), relaying the tale of how he and his friends planned to break in to a run down working men's club and steal Roper's ill-gotten gains from a secure safe located in there, only for things not to work out quite how they seemed.
Something gave me the impression on first glance that this little seen, independent crime flick was set south side, expecting a typical smattering of the usual cockney lingo and rhyming slang, only to get a surprise and find it set north of the border, which allowed for no such stereotypes. And so this debut feature length production from director Rowan Athale seeks desperately to break the typical conventions of the genre, a modest budget offering with aspirations above it's station, which despite being a little messy in it's execution and possibly even a little over ambitious, is still impressively intelligent and complex, and could actually stand to a second viewing just to make sense of it all.
Coming from the plot point of two men talking in a room, it's a dialogue driven film, and it's striving for a Tarantino style of execution and delivery, which it manages with a sense of fluency and eloquence. It's intelligent and well written, but not exactly a realistic depiction of how nefarious types of this background and age group would probably speak. At points it all feels a bit heavy and over bearing, and is a little disconcerting as a result. Still, you can't fault it's ambition, and it's carried out with aplomb by lead stars Treadaway, Maskell and veteran Spall.
While it can't help but project a messy, convoluted sort of feel, it's lying in the gutter but aiming for the stars, a low grade thriller with ambition and intelligence to set it that little bit above the rest. ***
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
'Wasteland' is a British gangster flick - usually the kind of film I avoid like the plague, but to my surprise I really enjoyed the story of four lads who decide to gain revenge on the local hard nut who sent one of them to prison: the characters are likable, there's a feel-good ending, there are some nice twists to the plot (although I never did work out what was the point of the crossbow) and, unlike most British gangster flicks, it has neither Ken Stott, Danny Dyer nor Jamie Forman in it - definitely a plus! Gerard Kearns (a 'Shameless' escapee) plays one of the lads; acting honours go to Timothy Spall as a world-weary police detective with a heart of gold.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Harvey is sitting in a police interview room facing interrogation, and
Detective Inspector West has no doubt in Harvey's part in a foiled
robbery, and the attempted murder of local thug Steven Roper.
Denying everything, Harvey agrees to tell his version of events, from his initial release from prison, right up to the point of his arrest....
Even though the film has good intentions, and for a low budget Indie movie, it looks wonderful, it's basically just ripping off the interrogation from The Usual Suspects, and to rip off such a prolific movie with such rich narrative and characters, you have to have something special up your sleeves..........this really doesn't deliver anything new though.
It's not a bad film though by any means, Treadaway is good as the main protagonist, and the superb as always Maskell is unsettling as the antagonist.
But other than that, it's just another run of the mill crime drama about someone who's fed up of his life and wants to be somebody, and wouldn't you know it, resorting to crime is the only way.
His gang are the usual rag tag team of Ne'er do wells, and if you want to find out what happened to Neville Longbottom when he graduated from Hogwarts, look no further than this.
Spall as good as he is, is just there to listen to the story and to be the ears of the subliminal confession, until the tables are turned in the most predictable way imaginable.
So it's a watchable movie, about ten minutes too long, but you'll be yearning for Keyser Soze come the end.
THE RISE is a would-be British crime thriller set on the grim streets
of Leeds. The Northern setting is a good one, allowing for a touch of
originality in the locales and some interesting accents, but otherwise
it's business as usual for this low budget production. An ex-con
decides to pull off one last heist with the aid of his buddies and
decides to go up against a crime boss, both to make a fortune and get
his own back on the man who sent him to prison in the first place.
There's a fair bit to like in this film, not least the naturalistic performances from a trio of young stars. Luke Treadaway (ATTACK THE BLOCK) is the lead and Matthew Lewis (HARRY POTTER) and Iwan Rheon (GAME OF THRONES) his ne'er do well buddies. In addition, we get a world-weary Timothy Spall as a cop whose wraparound story structures the plot, and Neil Maskell (KILL LIST) in his nastiest turn yet as the villain of the piece; both are more than effective.
The shooting style is good, the acting grounded, and there are plenty of novel twists and turns in the narrative. A shame, then, that this film isn't as good as it thinks it is and that the whole is a lot weaker than the sum of its parts. The script mistakes expletives for wit, and all of the characters are as cold as can be, which robs the movie of much of its suspense - how can you be immersed in the proceedings when you don't care whether the leads live or die? THE RISE is also a slow burner, which as a filming technique is fine when there's a build-up to something worthwhile, but the actual heist is a disappointment and a huge anticlimax when it comes down to it. This film's okay, but hardly the stuff of greatness that reviews would have you believe...
As someone else had mentioned this was sitting in my Netflix account
unloved - a little bored I thought I should watch the first 20 minutes
and see where it went.
Having not read any reviews I was pleased to see Timothy Spall pop up in the first 10 minutes, encouraged I gave the film my full attention. The initial dialogue was clever, maybe a little too clever but fresh with some good lines, giving a solid back story. I must admit I grew to like the 4 lads, especially the lead who delivers a strong performance. Expecting a typical revenge story with the usual violence and mayhem the Rise takes you in a different and refreshing direction.
It's well shot and the impressive director makes you really feel like you are on this gritty estate in the North of England. However he also offers hope, you want these guys to get their revenge and whatever they can take from the very believable drug kingpin.
As you get more engrossed by the film the cleverer it gets with some great twists and turns, although not completely original it all works. There is not a weak performance from the whole cast while backed up by a fantastic soundtrack (if you like your dance music). What I liked most is that the film does not go too far either; there is no violence or nudity for the sake of it. It's a great British film that should not be left too long to watch.
This film had been sat in my Netflix queue for ages and I kept putting
off watching it and almost didn't watch it. I'm not really sure why,
but I just had a feeling that the 4 leads would be unlikeable one
dimensional chavs - I'll admit that I was being a bit presumptuous. All
I can say is that I'm so glad that I was wrong.
I'll admit that the first 15-20 minutes of the film did play out as I thought; the characters were annoying at first, the dialogue was a bit shaky, but once the plot kicks in the film seems to find a new gear and I found that the more I watched it, the more enjoyment I got from it.
One thing I did like about this film is the depth and complexities of its characters - we have Dodd (Matthew Lewis) who seems very much grounded and fears change (not wanting to venture outside of his own town, never mind leave the country). We have Charlie (Gerard Kearns) who is an out of work welder with an alcoholic mother who I felt was more a victim of circumstance than anything else. Then we have the mastermind behind the 'revenge' plot Harvey (Treadaway) who finds himself in a difficult place when he has to try to balance his desire to get his vengeance against Roper (Neil Maskell) and his need to try and appease his old flame Nicola (Vanessa Kirby). Each character had their own identity and all the characters felt real and believable -they'll argue, they'll laugh and they ultimately show that can also work well as a team. I really felt when watching this that the 4 leads had been friends for a long time and you could also tell that they all really cared for each other (this in spite of some of the petty squabbles that they all had throughout the film).
One other thing I thought about this film was how clever it was; the film starts out as a standard tale of revenge, but part of the group's revenge is to carry out a heist - I won't say anymore than that, but let's just say that this made the film both exciting and fun to watch. This is where the film really comes into its own as there are various twists and turns throughout the film that will keep you guessing right up till the end.
As well as strong characterisation and a good script, The Rise also benefits from strong and believable performances. For me, Maskell gave the best performance as psychotic drug pusher Steven Roper. Maskell has a naturally menacing look and coupled with his solid acting this made him a particularly effective villain. All the other performances were fine, but Maskell was the one that stood out for me.
The Rise is a really good film and I wish that I hadn't left it in my Netflix queue for so long. The characters are believable, the acting was good, the script was excellent and very clever. If you're a fan of revenge films or heist films then you'll like this film. If revenge and heist films are your 2 favourite genres, then you may just have found your perfect film.
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