In the same week
that the British government announced the demise of the UK Film Council (UKFC), out pops a little gem that differs
from the brainless gangster movies that have been spewed out, of late, that may
be solely responsible for the final axe of the national institution.
It’s the same
genre, but this time, Ben Wheatly’s deadpan crime-comedy Down Terrace, comes
with a worthy script, sensible (and audible) dialogue and actors who can
actually act. Even first time actor Bob Hill holds his own amongst the UK’s favourite comedy thesps. No endless ‘ferking ‘ells’, shiny suits and gratuitous nudity to
distract from the banality of the usual fodder. And it’s about time.
The beauty of the
film is in its simplicity. There is certainly the odd bit of crime and caper but Down
Terrace focuses on chracter development excellently executed by the exchanges between family and friends in a domestic
setting. It just happens to be the home of a criminal family but not the
suited-and-booted kind. It’s more the slippers under the table and pie-and-mash
types. You know the sort. The typical family that one would expect to see
living in any terrace. (Get it?)
The film charts
the two weeks of the home-life of a a family gang unit headed by middle-aged father Bill (Robert Hill) and his 35-year old son Karl (Robin
who has just returned from prison. Bill’s long-suffering wife Maggie (Deakin) holds referee for much of the time
between her bullying husband and their passive-aggressive offspring, whilst
their colleagues pop in and out of the house. Meanwhile the two men try to
determine who grassed them up to the police.
Nearly everyone is
under suspicion including a Jerkel-and-Hyde Irish character in the form of
Pringle (Smiley) as the
doting father by day and a ruthless thug by night; the rotund neighbour Garvey
(Way) and a pregnant
former girlfriend, who is also under suspicion but for a very different reason. The question is, who is the real father of her unborn
child since Karl has been in the nick for the last six months.
There is plenty of
subtle, dark laughs, often jibbing at the narrow-minded stereotypes of that ilk. In one
scene, the men reason that it is acceptable to use the term ‘Paki’ to describe a person from Pakistan, since
someone from Afghanistan would be called an Afghani. Clearly, this is good old English humour
that would not translate well overseas.
The film is not without fault. The strong
narrative in the first half (the first week) somewhat dilutes in the second,
as the film changes tone and the body count begins. The plot becomes a little
more predictable and farcical thus, in abolishing its simplicity, the clever subtly of humour is lost. It
does feel like an extended made-for-tv type drama which is hardly surprising since
writer-director Ben Wheatly and Robin Hill both have a strong background in
television comedy shows. Still, it’s the best British crime-comedy out this
year so it won’t disappoint.
All the Guy Ritchie
wannabes may have put the nail in the coffin for the UKFC. Unfortunately, Down
Terrace came a little too late to fight in its corner. Support the British film
industry and go see this one, and be thoroughly entertained.