Shadows Film FestShadows off the beaten path
Indies, foreigns, docs, videos, revivals and shorts...
On this page: CAL | DIRTYMONEY
< <
I N D I E S > >
last update 2.Oct.13
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
dir-scr-prd Christian Martin
with Wayne Virgo, Tom Payne, Daniel Brocklebank, Emily Corcoran, Lucy Russell, Bernie Hodges, Simon Cook, Richard Cambridge, Anna Gallagher, Tony Banham, Deborah Fleming, Tim J Henley
virgo and payne release UK 9.Sep.13
13/UK 1h29

See also:
SHANK (2009)
cal This thoughtful sequel to 2009's Bristol-based gang drama Shank takes a completely different approach, exploring political and economic issues through the eyes of a young man who is literally fighting for his survival. The story's somewhat forced and ill-defined at times, but even when it feels contrived it's darkly involving.

After travelling around Europe for three years, 21-year-old Cal (Virgo) returns home to Bristol when he learns that his mum (Russell) is dying in hospital. But he feels trapped with no job opportunities, angry protests in the streets against the government's economic policies and his hideous Aunty Jane (Corcoran) taunting him at every turn. Then local thug Ivan (Brocklebank) steals his passport, and Cal starts hanging out with Ivan's street-worker Jason (Payne). Unable to get a break, he agrees to do a job for Ivan.

The film is skilfully shot by Jack O'Dowd to capture the fragility of Cal's predicament, cleverly editing footage of real street demonstrations with the dramatic scenes. This allows some hints of tenderness to emerge in Cal's growing friendship with Jason, which almost reluctantly shifts into something more. But the narrative flow is uneasy and fragmented, with sometimes erratically composed sequences that make it difficult for us to remain connected with the characters as the events get increasingly dramatic.

Both Virgo and Payne nicely underplay their roles, and Brocklebank provides some steely edge to his vaguely Eastern European thug. On the other hand, the cackling low-lifes played by Corcoran and Russell seem a bit cartoonish, as does the overstated production design (Cal's house looks like it's being redecorated, not like it's run-down). On the other hand, the inventive location work offers a constant reminder of the economic downturn with empty shopfronts, angry activists, compromised journalists and over-stretched cops.

Filmmaker Martin packs the story with sharply telling scenes and some beautifully staged moments, which makes up for the lack of narrative coherence. Although we wish we could dive in deeper. A finer focus on Cal's perspective and a bit more connective tissue in the central storyline would have given the film a much more powerful emotional punch. As is, it's a sensitive, intriguing look at a young man in a very difficult situation.

18 themes, language, violence, sexuality
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
dir-scr Adam Tysoe
prd Debbie Shuter
with Anthony Welsh, Elsa Mollien, Zephryn Taitte, Mem Ferda, Max Wrottesley, Philip Rosch, Sophie Anderson, Chloe Farnworth, Anne-Marie Hughes, Adam Cole, Grahame Fox, Simon DeSilva
mollien and welsh release UK Sep.13 rff
13/UK 1h27

DirtyMoney For his feature debut, writer-director Tysoe dives into the glamorous side of the London criminal underworld. Skilful filmmaking and naturalistic acting make up for the low budget and cliched premise, as does a likeable central character. And the most surprising thing is how sensitively the story is told.

Bright young Leo (Welsh) is trying to get through university, working as a fry-cook while keeping himself fit and sober. But his brother Michael (Taitte) keeps trying to drag him into a dodgy gang that runs a drugs and prostitution ring. Eventually the lure of easy money is too hard to resist and, sure enough, he makes more cash than he ever thought possible. When he falls for the stripper Nadia (Mollien), he feels like he has everything he could ever want. Then things start turning nasty.

Frankly, Leo turns into a thug a bit too easily, but he's clearly a natural at it. The strikingly engaging Welsh plays the steely Leo with a an almost naive, offhanded charm that generates a charge of chemistry with Mollien's somewhat stereotypical woman of mystery. As he slides into a lifestyle he had always resisted, he's too smart to make a big mistake, and yet of course this world is fraught with danger.

As a director, Tysoe shows considerable style, with slick visuals and cool casting. On the other hand, his inspiration seems to come mainly from movies and TV rather than real-life. This is especially noticeable in the cheesy-groovy score and striking cinematography that mixes light and shadows. It's like he's fascinated by this criminal underworld even as he feels the need to preach against it. Fortunately, he keeps the story centred on the characters rather than the convoluted criminal plot.

Unusually for this genre, the film has a timid pace that seems to hedge away from earthy realism. Every crisis is presented as a straightforward moral decision in which right and wrong is clearly delineated regardless of what the characters decide to do. This moralising makes the film feel simplistic, because surely Leo wouldn't get himself into this kind of work if he had such rigid views on sex and drugs. So when he says he wants to "get the money and pay them off", we know we've heard it all before.

15 themes, language, violence, sexuality, drugs
28.Sep.13 rff
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
Outpost 11
dir-scr Anthony Woodley
prd Luke Healy, James Littlewood, Anthony Woodley
with Joshua Mayes-Cooper, Billy Clarke, Luke Healy, Bernard Hill, Graham Till, Alexander Devrient, Mike Woodley
healy and mayes-cooper release UK 30.Sep.13
13/UK 1h32

Outpost 11 Packed with quirky details, this increasingly surreal thriller is especially well-made, obscuring its low budget with a witty approach that cranks up suspense with every scene. Like an offbeat twist on John Carpenter's The Thing, the film uses its characters to make an unseen menace that much scarier.

In a British military listening outpost in the Arctic Circle, young private Albert (Mayes-Cooper) wakes up his over-serious superior officer Graham (Clarke) when a red light starts flashing. But Graham is furious that nothing appears to be wrong. When Commander Mason (Healy) returns from hunting outside, he tries to calm the tension. But things take a turn for the worse when they intercept a coded message advising them to abandon all hope. So after Mason heads off to get help from a colleague (Hill), the strain between Albert and Graham comes to a full boil.

The film has a terrific sense of style, with inventive sets and superb lighting and camerawork. Right from the start, writer-director Woodley begins mixing black comedy and claustrophobic tension, adding bizarre touches that amuse and unnerve us. From the exploding bunny that opens the film to the discovery of a squid in a pipe, the film keeps us amused as it suggests some sort of sinister presence in the boiler. In addition, Graham digs what looks like a chick pea from his hand, and there are massive spiders everywhere.

All three actors are excellent, creating vivid characters whose interaction bristles with private obsessions. As the story progresses, the younger Albert and Mason clash with the seasoned Graham, whose paranoia seems to know no bounds. Their conversations veer from casual camaraderie to vicious assaults, as nightmares and personal issues play into their working relationships. Most chilling are Albert's terror of the engine room and Graham's calm cruelty.

Eerily timeless, it's not easy to pinpoint when this story takes place. The uniforms and technology suggest World War II until a computer and VHS tape come into play, as if it's some sort of psychotropic steampunk alternate Cold War reality. Are these men facing an apocalypse or are they losing their sanity? Woodley gleefully wrong-foots us in every scene, suggesting all kinds of possibilities within the outpost, in the icy mountains around them and, most unnerving of all, in their own minds. Fiendishly clever.

15 themes, language, grisliness
28.Sep.13 rff
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
dir-scr Tony Hipwell, Miles Watts
prd Sam Robinson
with Elaine Glover, Philip Rowson, Olwen May, Scott Taylor, Millie Chadwick, Jamie Rooney-West, Andrew Dunn, Paul Tomblin, David Kendra, Simone Lewis, Sean Corey, Arron Dennis
glover and rowson
release UK Sep.13 rff
13/UK 1h28

Whoops! This gleefully grisly British black comedy makes up for its low budget with assured camerawork and sharp acting. It's also packed with hilariously deranged dialog and scenes that are nicely played by the likeable actors. So it doesn't really matter that there's not much to it.

Estate agent Rose (Glover) is more than a little accident prone. After breaking a heel, a series of events lead to a jogger being killed in the park. Her loyal husband Dave (Rowson) cleans up the mess after taking care of their precocious kids (Chadwick and Rooney-West). And this isn't Rose's first accidental murder. So as Rose worries that she's becoming a serial killer, Dave hides the body in the building site where he's working. But when she "accidentally" kills her sleazy boss (Dunn), two cops (May and Taylor) start to connect the dots.

Filmmakers Hipwell and Watts keep the tone light, opting for a jaggedly comical tone. Sure, Dave has promised to stick with Rose for better or worse, but describing these incidents as "self-defence" is a stretch. Several scenes push the boundaries of taste and intelligence, such as when Rose and Dave try to honour a victim's wish to be an organ donor. But for the most part the silliness is held in balance with more observational humour.

The movie is sharply well shot and edited, and played with a straight face by the cast, which makes it rather amusing to watch. Glover's Rose is a bundle of misguided impulses, while Rowson's Dave is a more likeable pragmatist, just getting on with the grim job at hand, Although his pot-fuelled ideas are rather appalling. As the tenacious detectives, May and Taylor sometimes veer close to slapstick stereotype, but just about keep it reeled in.

The big joke here is that some people just have terrible luck. Or is it that it's very difficult to keep your true nature at bay? None of these things are explored in any depth, of course, but by keeping the focus on this adoring couple, the film develops an us-against-the-world charm. And the main thing we learn is that we should never walk up behind an easily frightened woman.

15 themes, language, violence, sexuality
27.Sep.13 rff
back to the top Send Shadows your reviews!

< < I N D I E S > >

© 2013 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall