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|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
dir Saul Dibb
scr Saul Dibb, Catherine Johnson
with Ashley Walters, Luke Fraser, Leon Black, Claire Perkins, Sharea-mounira Samuels, Curtis Walker, Rio Tison, Clark Lawson, Jadiel Vitalis, Sylvester Williams, Jamie Winstone, Louise Delamere
release UK 8.Apr.05
04/UK BBC Films 1h29
Getting straight: Fraser and Walters
Documentary filmmaker Dibb brings a lively authenticity to this cautionary tale of innercity life that makes it thoroughly engaging and powerfully moving. As an examination of British gun culture, it's devastating stuff. But it's an even more compelling personal drama.
Ricky (Walters), age 20, is just out of prison and determined to straighten up. But back home his old pal Wisdom (Black) is still in the community's violent subculture, sparking an escalating feud with another thug (Lawson) over a broken wing mirror. Meanwhile, Ricky is trying to revive his relationship with his girlfriend (Samuels), convince his mother (Perkins) that he's putting violence behind him, and help his 12-year-old brother Curtis (Fraser) stay straight. But it's all much easier said than done.
Dibb balances the bleak subject matter with an honest, warmly comical tone that brings these characters strikingly to life, combined with vivid and natural performances from the entire cast. Perkins is the standout, while So Solid Crew's Walters (who first read the script while in prison on a gun charge) is excellent in the central role. That everyone is playing with fire actually adds to our connection with the central characters, most strikingly Ricky and Curtis. We become so attached to them, that their emotional scenes carry real weight, while sequences in which they're at extreme risk are almost unbearably tense.
The filmmaking has a strong-but-improvised feel. Camera work is low-key and perhaps a bit unfocussed. And Dibb seems almost too aware of the sheer weight of his central themes, drifting into preachiness at times while also drawing out the human resonance (an extended church scene at the end is wrenching, and maybe too strong for the subtle film around it). Fortunately, he never tries to explain away the problem, although he touches on most of the usual "causes". He clearly understands that all of life isn't so anguished, and the film is full of humour and lively camaraderie. These people are genuinely trying to improve their life, even as the violent spiral threatens to consume them all. It's a remarkably affecting portrayal of life on the brink--entertaining, skilful and extremely important.
|Neilesh, London: "Performances are naturalistic and sensitive in this emotionally involving drama. Would have been better for developing the relationship between the main character and his bad-influence buddy - why does he associate with him, why does he like him, etc. The main character's little bro has much charm and a cinematic face - watching him think is funny. Ashley Walters beats him at one point in a brotherly fashion, and then goes 'that's what happens'." (10.Apr.05)
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