Tower Block
dir James Nunn, Ronnie Thompson
scr James Moran
prd James Harris, Mark Lane, Ronnie Thompson
with Sheridan Smith, Jack O'Connell, Russell Tovey, Ralph Brown, Jill Baker, Harry McEntire, Julie Graham, Nabil Elouahabi, Kane Robinson, Montserrat Lombard, Christopher Fulford, Steven Cree
release UK 21.Sep.12
12/UK Lionsgate 1h30
Tower Block
Can't take any more of this: Smith and O'Connell

smith o'connell tovey
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Tower Block Tense and contained, this grisly little British thriller contains some effective jolts and engaging characters. But after setting up the premise, it doesn't really have anywhere to go. Kind of like the characters themselves.

After a violent murder in the corridor of their condemned London council block, the top floor residents are the last awaiting relocation. Then one morning sniper fire zings in the windows, leaving survivors huddled in the hallway. Becky (Smith) is the most level-headed in the group, which includes a local thug (O'Connell), depressive alcoholic (Tovey), ex-military pensioner (Brown) and his wife (Baker), a terrified mother (Graham) with a teen son (McEntire) and two drug dealers (Elouhabi and Robinson). But the way out is blocked, and they're being picked off one by one.

The filmmakers charge into this contrived story, hoping we won't notice lapses in logic (how do you block the mobile signal atop a tall tower in a city?) and physics (there seems to be a "safe" side of the building, so wouldn't flats across the hall be undisturbed?). But it's impossible to suspend our disbelief. Fortunately, the cast is solid enough to bring characters to life, including a startlingly layered turn by Smith as a refreshingly strong female hero.

O'Connell also adds a few twists to his low-life jerk, and Tovey is irresistibly likeable as always. In fact, all of the actors help paper over the strained story structure. We become emotionally invested in most of them, which is impressive since the back-stories are kept to a minimum. So when the next one is cold-heartedly killed, it's an unexpected shock. But of course, the plot follows a careful formula, right to the revelation of why this is happening.

Claustrophobic atmospheres aren't too difficult to create on a budget, but this one is relentlessly murky and grim. Over the course of events, the filmmakers leave the corridor for other danger zones (although they only seem to have one exterior shot, which is used repeatedly). And even if they never fill in the script's gaping holes, at least they never shy away from getting genuinely nasty. At times it almost seems like no one is safe from this sniper's crosshairs.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 17.Sep.12

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