Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Dead Man Running - Dir. Alex De Rakoff

‘Dead Man Running’ sees the cinematic Cockney wide boys Tamer Hassan and Danny Dyer join together for yet another jolly boys outing on the big screen. Except this time instead of playing raging football hooligans destroying East London one shop window at a time, they are instead pushed into the world of the British Gangster flick. Which sounds like potential entertainment, but it really isn’t. It’ll help you fill an hour and thirty minutes of free time, but you won’t be rushing to see it again at the Cinema, or out to buy the DVD, or see to it on pay-television...

The opening scene of the film shows that the recession has had far and wide reaching consequences across the economic board as the underworld boss Mr Thigo (Curtis ‘50’ Jackson) decides to draw in every penny from all the outstanding loans he is currently owed. While Nick (Hassan) is the unfortunate customer who is going to be made an example of by Thigo to make sure everybody pays up promptly and without hassle – Barclays Banking this is not. Nick is given twenty-four hours to acquire the hundred grand he owes Thigo otherwise he and his mother (Brenda Blethyn) will be sleeping with the fishes. Cue a frantic race across London with his business partner and working-class friend Bing (Danny Dyer) in tow as they attempt various different activities while trying to raise the debt and stay alive.

Hassan and Dyer play the typical characters you have seen them time and time again, and it is now becoming a little annoying as well as entirely predictable and boring. Nick is a former ‘hardman’ who was a resident at Her Majesty’s service before taking the legal and law-abiding route so he could care for his family. While Bing is his right-hand man who is willing to do almost anything to help Nick obtain the £100,000 that he owes. Yet there is one gleaming performance in this stiff, wooden cast which is that of veteran British actress Brenda Blethyn who plays Nick’s caring, soft, yet incredibly versatile mother who provides not only the biggest laugh of the film, but also the tensest scene as we uncover a secret she has kept buried under her blanket.

I was never expecting a brilliant film from Alex De Rakoff’s British crime flick ‘Dead Man Running’, but I was expecting more considering the decent cast it contains. It fails to harbour the primarily British cast’s potential and instead delivers a predictable narrative coupled with a terribly clich├ęd script. The biggest problem however is the fact that despite being evenly and well paced, the film has nothing which will keep an audience’s attention for longer than five minutes.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Harry Brown - Dir. Daniel Barber

Daniel Barber’s first directorial feature is a shocking, brutal and thought-provoking affair in which Michael Caine decides to ignore retirement and chooses instead to purge his run-down, Central London estate of the young, criminal minds that plague it. Barber provides an impressive and surprisingly mature directorial debut in which he presents the issues of Britain’s broken youth, the ineffective nature of the Police in hard-to-control areas and the rise of gang culture, all of which are subjects that have been at the forefront of the social climate over the last few years. Whether you agree with the view Barber presents, or not, ‘Harry Brown’ will certainly leave you thinking about more than the recession in the current climate.

Harry Brown (Michael Caine) is a decorated ex-Serviceman who every day watches the world unfold from his flat in a downtrodden London estate. He observes the increasingly senseless violence committed by the young gang members of the estate and the open-handed nature of the drug dealers without any action being taken towards those who are constantly flouting the law in his community. However when his wife passes away, and his best-friend Leonard (David Bradley) is killed after confronting the young men who spend each day terrorising him to the point of retribution, Brown decides with nothing left to live for, to take the law into his own hands and delivers some excessively violent – Charles Bronson style - vigilante revenge.

Opening with a startlingly realistic scene in which a couple of gang members harass and ultimately shoot a young woman without provocation in a local park before riding away and falling prey to an oncoming truck, sets the sombre tone of ‘Harry Brown’ before we even reach the opening credits. The opening scene also strikes a social chord, as it is shot in low-resolution and in first-person giving the impression that it has been taken straight from one of the gang member’s phones, an act which is becoming more common within the gang culture in the UK. From here on in, the tone of the film stays bleak with Barber’s direction and Ruhe’s cinematography turning the London streets into a desolate, darkened wasteland where only the brave dare go out at night.

The real catch as always however, is one Sir Michael Caine, who turns in yet another breath-taking emotional performance as the ‘pensioner’ who decides to take the law into his own hands. He provides the performance of a broken down man whose loneliness simply fuels his uncompromising violence against the criminals who plague his estate. While Emily Mortimer and Ben Drew also pull out strong performances from their closets. Mortimer plays Detective Frampton a rising up and coming woman in the Metropolitan Police force who chose to work on Brown’s estate as she wishes to change it for the better without subverting the law, and Drew as Noel, a sadistic killer with no respect for those around him who will happily inflict ruthless cruelty upon those who cross his path.

While ‘Harry Brown’ is a competent picture, its formulaic narrative structure takes somewhat of a chink out of its armour. Despite some wonderfully shot and tense sequences during the last twenty minutes of the film, the ending of the film is nothing new and simply regurgitates everything we have seen before in the one-man-vigilante films of before. But, I still thoroughly enjoyed the film, the violence was exhilarating, the performances from Caine and Bradley were sentimental and the direction was gritty and representative of today’s modern muddled up world.