Gangs, violence and gangsters are not new territory for British Independent film; we’ve seen it covered numerous times, from the likes of excellent films such Football Factory and Bullit Boy, through to comedy car crashes such as Dead Man Running and down-right disastrous Rolling With The Nines.
Gangs, violence and
gangsters are not new territory for British Independent film; we’ve seen it
covered numerous times, from the likes of excellent films such Football Factory
and Bullit Boy, through to comedy car crashes such as Dead Man Running and
down-right disastrous Rolling With The Nines.
This time around it’s angry females
administering the blows in Nirpal Bhogal’s debut feature length
film, Sket – which is a street term
for a ‘Super Ho’ or slag. Bhogal attempts to delve into the phenomenon of
growing girl gangs who trawl London’s estates ready to beat the living
daylights out of any man who’s foolish enough to cross them. It’s an
interesting subject with many layers to be explored but, unfortunately, Bhogal
falls short of the mark by skimming over poignant themes and issues and using ambiguity
not as tool to tantalise, but to simply confuse the hell out of his audience.
The story centres around sixteen year-old
Geordie, Kayla, who has moved with her sister, Tanya, from ‘up North to a
London estate – que iconic-esque images of estate landscapes – for a fresh
start after the death of their mother. Her sister is keenly trying to patch
things up with their estranged father, but Kayla is having none of it. Instead
she finds a diversion in the form of a local girl gang, after they rescue her
from the letches of a two boys on a bus by brutally beating them up. Impressed,
Kayla wants their company but the gang and their leader, a hard-faced girl
named Danielle, aren’t interested in the tiny framed Kayla.
Things turn bad for Kayla when her sister naively
sticks up for a woman who is being manhandled by a bloke in the street.
Unfortunately for her they’re the local gangster, Trey (Ashley Walters) and his mole, Shacks. Not amused Trey beats her
within an inch of her life in the middle of a darkened street for no other
reason than she dared to stand up to him. Needless to say motive is slightly
lacking here and it’s the start of many not properly thought out plot
When Tanya dies in hospital Kayla is consumed
with anger and wants revenge, so instead of going to the police, she pesters Danielle
and her followers to help her take down her sister’s murderer. However, Trey
and his long suffering girlfriend also want her dead.
It gets out confusing from here on out,
things are intimated but never explained further or covered again. The girl
gang member’s pasts are chequered – they’ve been mistreated and they’re looking
to belong, we get that, but there’s no further context given. They also very
quickly turn into victims but, again, with very little believable motive. In
one scene where Kayla becomes a ‘real’ member of the gang as they beat a man
half to death and smash his car, we’re told it’s because he raped one of the
girl gang members. It would have been more emotive to convey this in some way
rather than simply tell the audience in some off-hand way and use it as a
motive for violence. There are also moments where, no doubt, you’ll be
wondering what is going on as too much happens with not enough attention to
That said, Bhogal obviously has an eye for acting talent as his actors
are the best thing about his debut feature. First time actor Aimee Kelly is stand out as the
vengeful Kayla, Emma Hartly-Miller
plays a convincing gang leader and manages to excellently suppress a broad
Edinburgh accent and morph into a Londoner, while Ashley Walters continues to
impress on screen since his star turn in Channel Four drama Top Boy. However,
besides the acting and despite clearly good intentions from Bhogal, Sket fails
to tell us anything we couldn’t read in the news or pick up from any bog
standard film in this genre.