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dir Nick Murphy
scr Bill Gallagher
prd Pippa Harris, Nick Laws, Nicola Shindler
with Paul Bettany, Stephen Graham, Mark Strong, Brian Cox, Natasha Little, Zoe Tapper, Naomi Battrick, Ben Crompton, Adrian Edmondson, Sandra Voe, Daniel McEvoy, Elizabeth Lowe
release UK 31.May.13
12/UK BBC 1h32
A very bad idea: Bettany and Graham
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
There's a lot of depth in this stylish thriller, although director Murphy and writer Gallagher overstate the moral themes. This undermines the fine performances from the actors, since we can clearly see where the story is going and precisely what each person is up to at every moment. But in a story like this, subtlety would make it much more involving.
In the Wirral, Joe (Bettany) and his brother Chris (Graham) are second-generation detectives, living in the shadow of their retired dad Lenny (Cox), who's now drifting into senility. Working with their partner Robert (Strong), Joe and Chris are investigating the grisly murder of a teen girl, and suspicion quickly falls on the creepy loner Jason (Crompton). With no real evidence against him, he's released. But on a drunken night out, Joe and Chris decide to take justice in their own hands. And living with their actions proves to be harder than they expected.
Yes, this is a cautionary tale about the power of guilt and regret, as these brothers grapple with the ramifications of their impulsively misguided attempt to clean up the streets. As Robert starts snooping around the situation, and Lenny inconveniently remembers things they wish he wouldn't, Joe and Chris find their personal lives falling apart, which engulfs Joe's wife and daughter (Little and Battrick) and Chris' fiancee (Tapper).
Bettany and Graham are terrific in the roles, generating superb camaraderie between the siblings that's strained when they react differently to a grim situation. Each one takes his own harrowing journey over the course of the film, and the actors convincingly play them as men who put family above everything, then realise that there are limits to this principle.
But as things get increasingly nasty, the script pushes them into some rather contrived situations that seem designed to reiterate the ethical black hole they have entered. By contrast, Cox is allowed to murmur mysteriously, while Strong remains a more enigmatic presence, hinting cleverly at his history while quietly revealing the nature of his friendship with both brothers. If the entire film had allowed more of this kind of open-handed interpretation, the central odyssey would have carried a much stronger punch.
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© 2013 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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