R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir-scr Nick Love
with Sean Bean, Danny Dyer, Bob Hoskins, Lennie James, Rupert Friend, Sean Harris, Andy Parfitt, Olivia Lumley, John Standing, Dave Legeno, Evelyn Duah, Sally Bretton
release UK 9.Mar.07
07/UK Vertigo 1h35

Take aim: Dyer and Bean

hoskins james friend
Outlaw There's the germ of an intriguing idea in this stylish British crime thriller, but writer-director Love (The Business) never quite follows through on his themes. It looks great, and touches on some important issues, but doesn't seem sure what to do with them.

Three men have been victimised in a way the law is hopeless to address. Dekker (Dyer) is beaten up in the street while his fiancee (Lumley) looks on; Munroe (James) is a lawyer attacked for prosecuting a criminal; and Sandy (Friend) is the victim of a vicious homophobic attack. They link up with a fed-up cop (Hoskins), a security nerd (Harris) and a former soldier (Bean) to even up the score. And their vigilante efforts are praised by the British public, even as the police hunt them down. But they disagree about how far to take things.

The culture of random, vicious violence is something both intriguing and essential as a film subject, as is the media's sensationalistic coverage of violence and the general public's support for celebrity criminals. While Love touches on these ideas, and even plays meaningfully with them in the film's opening half, the overall story merely drifts into a pointless crime thriller as it goes along. Meaty themes slip away, character conflicts are dealt with simplistically (or incoherently), and as the action cranks up the film becomes increasingly lifeless.

The cast continue to deliver committed performances all the way through. While Dyer is strangely muted in what feels like an underwritten (but central) role, Bean and James dig deeply to create men with a sense of internal turmoil. The chemistry between these mismatched losers works well on screen, even though it's never properly developed, especially where Friend's iconic victim and Harris' too-gung-ho creep fit in.

Love shows a strong progression as a director here, with some cool visual moves thanks partly to Sam McCurdy's sleek cinematography and David Julyan's purring score. His skills as a filmmaker have improved notably from project to project, so it's a shame the plot here feels so haphazard, especially since it has the bare bones of a much better, and much more vital film.

cert 18 themes, language, strong violence 17.Jan.07

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Outlaw Gordon, crawley: 2.5/5 "To put it bluntly the film was a real letdown after what was such a promising opening. Love clearly likes the darker side of london life and yob culture and, to start with, the film captured the hopelessness so many of us feel with modern day britain. The baddies were good and the goodies were poor. Just as the film looked as if it might go somewhere, it lost all direction. Bean's charecter really was a letdown - the simmering resentment seemed ready to boil over at any moment but instead kinda petered out and got lost in the pretty poor plot. Dyer and the assortment of unhappy chappies looked complately lost and drifted without purpose to the completly unrealistic ending. I think the film couldn't make up its mind on what if wanted to be - A social commentary of modern UK, a buddy movie, a coming of age gangster movie or just pure popcorn violent semi thriller. But i will say Nick Love captures the mood of the nation." (15.Mar.07)
2007 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall