I fancied seeing a film on the way home from work today. When I arrived at the cinema this was the next film on. I went in cold, knowing nothing.
Funky title sequence, OK. Opening scene with Statham asleep on a couch – OK, so its one of those Jason Statham films, fine I can go with that; Hollywood action film with a perfectly watchable lead, nothing too challenging, just what I need to unwind after a hard day at the office.
It was at this point that the old memory cells started working and I remembered that I had read something about the film. Oh no, isn't this a British film, set in London? Yes it is. Oh dear. I don't want gritty, low budget, realism, I don't want east end gangsters, mockney accents and all too earnest attempts to be cool.
I was pleasantly surprised to find my fears unfounded. This is really quite a good film.
Someone is killing London police officers, Statham, a cop who doesn't play by the rules (is their any other kind?) is out to get him.
Statham does his Statham thing, and does it very well. The man is no Brando, but this is a very creditable performance. He is believable as his character, he does quietly menacing, he does humorous, There is also a fair bit of charm in his interactions with his boss. There are a few scenes where he enlists the help of a WPC (very well played small part – sorry can't remember the actor) to check computer records. I thought that the interaction between the two was very good and caused me to wish that we would see Statham in a more relationship based drama, rather than his standard action fare.
Aiden Gillen is very good as the deranged killer. He is obviously "not in his right mind" but Gillen's subtle performance and the breadth of emotions and he hints at keep him well clear of a pantomime "Psycho".
Paddy Considine is fine as Stratam's superior. Interesting to see the inclusion of this homosexual character where his sexuality has nothing in particular to do with the plot; he isn't a victim, there is no mincing, no angst he is just a straight (as it were) gay man. Very, very few incidentally gay people on the big screen.
Zawa Ashton was perfectly OK as a cop who became an addict while under cover for the drug squad. David Morrisey doesn't have much to do as the newspaper reporter whom the killer contacts to publicise his activities.
What surprised me about the film was how good it looked. The cinematography is excellent; nothing flashy, but at times quite beautiful. I have never seen London look so good on film. The fact that we were kept away from the usual tourist spots helped; no establishing shot here, sweeping up the Thames, taking in the London Eye, the Houses of parliament etc. No red London Buses (do they still have them?). Also, there was also no attempt to make the place look like America with aerial shots of skyscrapers etc. At the same time the film makers didn't go to the other extreme and have Albert Square, litter and kebab shops.
The action in the film is pretty low key in terms of spectacle, nothing blows up, nobody takes their shirt off. The violence is real rather than comic book stuff. For me, it comes across as real, rather than affected "gritty reality". (Now there's an oxymoron for you)
Now, I am not saying that this is a great film. It is an entertaining enough thriller, decently acting, with some very nice cinematography. I don't imagine that it will will a lot of awards. But, it does the heart good to see a half decent British film, that isn't trying to be American or (defensively) trying too hard to be British. We could do with a lot more.
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