Posted July 4, 2011 by Ben Winkley in Films


Don’t be fooled by trailer’s promise of sex’n’drugs’n’rock’n’roll; Powder is not a film about music.

Don’t be fooled by trailer’s promise of sex’n’drugs’n’rock’n’roll; Powder is not a film about music.

Admittedly, all those ingredients are there, but they’re just window dressing for a fairly predictable, mostly unsatisfactory, right-of-passage story. Adapted from a novel by British author Kevin Sampson, Powder concerns Keva, singer and driving force of might-have-been band, the grams (they must be good, look at their unpretentious lack of CAPITAL LETTERS), and his search for personal redemption and professional success.

Keva (played by Liam Boyle, also seen in the adaptation of Sampson’s 1970s football hooliganism odyssey Awaydays) has a heavy soul. Haunted by a mystery childhood horror, slowly revealed here in shaky black-and-white flashback, he’s also understandably miffed by the underhand theft of his Big Song by a rival band and their subsequent success.

Although all around him have unbreakable faith in his genius, Keva’s at rock bottom, and his search for a cure for his ills take him through pub backrooms, festivals and Mediterranean island villas.

Boyle sure looks the part, with his rock star hair-and-cheekbones combo but, if you’re not taken to swooning at that kind of thing, your sympathies may be tempered by the way he always demonstrates his inner torture by staring into the middle distance and complaining that no-one understands.

The rest of the cast is a gaudy but thinly drawn array of music-biz caricatures, including a wacky guitarist, a chronically useless manager, a couple of upper-class producers slumming it with inherited money and a sleazy journalist. They are beset throughout by dialogue written and delivered without conviction.

Although it tries a bit of each, Powder isn’t funny enough to be a comedy, isn’t smart enough to be a satire and isn’t sad enough to be a tragedy. It also feels every bit as anachronistic as Awaydays, despite being set in the here and now. Sampson’s novel, drawn from his experience managing Liverpool-band The Farm, was set in a time when the business was enjoying its last hurrah, when a band like the grams could have more than one shot at success.

Despite nods to the changes since then – the journalist has a blog when he would once have been writing for the NME – the world depicted here seems like one that no longer exists. Yet despite all this, Powder will probably find an audience. Boyle will pull in the boys who want to be him and the girls who want to be with him, and the Nick Love crowd will enjoy the drugs and the bare flesh. But chart-topping material, it is not.

Ben Winkley