PLASTIC REVIEW

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Surprisingly watchable and entertaining. Hardly original or groundbreaking. Pretty much a darker Hustled up Hollyoaks hybrid but with a likeable and talented young British cast, I can think of worst ways to kill 90-odd minutes.

I went in expecting the worst and was relieved. A watchable easygoing crime caper, even if the end result is predictably the same. Ed Speelers has finally found a project to show off his talents after a number of misfires; Eragon and ITV’s Echo Beach. Playing the charismatic lead Sam, desperate to make a quick buck, he leads a rag tag team of chosen criminals who inevitably end up messing with the wrong people. In all fairness, the first 20 minutes zipped along quite nicely with the little fraudsters starting off as little Del Boys, fobbing off stolen merch to stereotypical posh toffs at uni. Stereotypical if hilarious riffs on the Made in Chelsea numpties.

The team of grifters get a passion for plastic. Stealing credit card information and data to buy a lot of expensive jewellery and  harvest a lot of wonga. The ease in which the team obtain their data is scarily realistic; perfectly demonstrated in a petrol station sequence in which cameras are positioned perfectly to catch pins and fake machines. A crime that does need to stop as the world goes DPA crazy. The “subtle” social commentary on the fact that students who are studying their degrees or have achieved them are probably not going to get a job in that field is a harsh reality that I can relate to. But resorting to corporate espionage and card crime, meh, I’ll stick to blogging. The lazy jibes about the economic crisis wasn’t necessary. We’re all stuck in it. Been there. Can’t afford the t-shirt. Felt like a mere excuse to help justify the cockney rebels’ cause.

However, the team soon rip off the wrong man, the ever reliable slithery Thomas Kretschmann (Dracula/Wanted). Not enough of him to be honest but he manages to make a mark. Hardly Brick Top from Snatch but impressionable none the same. He gives them a deadline of two weeks to pay up a £2 million “compensation” fee, leading to one massive, crazy, can’t-believe-it-but-apparently-a-true-story, con. Will Poulter (We’re the Millers/Son of Rambo) was arguably overshadowed. And for some reason, the lad had not grown up enough to carry the conviction his character craved. In one scene, the gruff gangster worked, the other he seemed more like he was doing one of his performances in School of Comedy. He delivers some of the more comical one liners. I mentioned overshadowed as one culprit in particular steals every scene and that goes to old Theon Lovejoy (prefer that comparison to sibling of Lily Allen) Alfie Allen.

Allen has always been able to play the shady, slick faced shithead but he does it so well and delivers yet again as the volatile Yatesey. A necessary, if untrustworthy, evil. A ticking timebomb waiting to explode. The beautiful eye candy, I mean, Emma Rigby (Hollyoaks) doing her best to be nothing more than a stocky love interest. I couldn’t believe that Graham McTavish (Dwalin from The Hobbit franchise) was in this, playing the ridiculous OTT and gullible mark to perfection, lapping up every minute.  It was great to see Ashley Chin (Starred Up) and Robbie Gee (speaking of Snatch) in somewhat limited roles. But talented enough to stand out. And Malese Jow. I only ever remember her from that Nickelodeon show Unfabulous. Wow. Stunning. But perverted comments aside, she plays the supporting role well. Sebastian De Souza (Skins/The Borgias) was originally quite a funny character and you did feel for him as he is rewarded the more irritating gigs but his character soon gets quite annoying and luckily subsides into the background. Shame.

As Sam says at the start of the film, “it’s not how it started but how it ends. How you got there”. And that’s a little bit of the problem, the start was highly watchable and once the con gets going, the plot holes start appearing and once the crazy Mission Impossible costume work comes into it, well it all gets a little silly. There were missed opportunities; most notably in Sam’s recruiting techniques. Intriguing at first, it soon didn’t surmount to anything by the end, without spoiling too much. And when I say, silly. The strange overuse of slow motion by the end of the film was irritating. I mean, a tense build up to an inevitable shoot out sequence borders on parody by the end, with people being shot left right and centre, then popping back up like they have been re-spawned in a game of Call of Duty.

Arguably this could have been a TV movie but in comparison to the bigger budgeted and supposedly more talented counterparts that have been released this year, this fares reasonably well. More so for me as a movie aficionado after an atrocious April of one star cinematic car crashes. Enough to stay afloat. At this moment, I’m looking for films that are watchable and this one falls into it. If you’re expecting Lock, Stock then you will be disappointed. I’m glad that this didn’t try to be, it’s better for it at that sense. But maybe a little of that ambition would have helped it fare a bit better and all. It’s 3 (just) out of 5 for me!

Currently ranks #86 out of 170!

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STARRED UP REVIEW

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Scum, this ain’t san. A slow hard boiled film that doesn’t deserve to be locked up and is reprieved by an unexpected brutal climax and a very talented cast.

It’s great to see low budget British films like this getting recognized and put out on the cinema circuit. We follow the incredibly volatile Eric Love (Jack Connell) as he is transferred to an adult prison and ends up in the same wing as his old man, the even more explosive Neville Love (Ben Mendelsohn). Director David Mackenzie excels at providing a grim look at the prison system. What starts as a good opener as we go through the check in procedure (strip search, etc) at the prison soon meanders along, bordering on a Porridge parody. I mean once Eric walks through one walkway, we don’t need to see several. Connell is fantastic and gives a stellar performance. His character to start with is very unlikeable as he goes out of his way to make trouble. But through his bravado and dominance, you can’t stop watching him. And once he meets his father, a fantastically creepy Mendelsohn, we soon get a better insight into Eric and see why he is the way he is. The only problem Connell has always excelled at playing the hard man. You can only worry that he will be type cast but if he plays the part so well, does it matter.

Starred Up is gritty, violent, at times brutal but beneath that, Mackenzie does try and make a statement about young offenders and the inner workings of the prison, providing an all too realistic insight. This is demonstrated perfectly in the “anger management” class sessions led by posho volunteer Oliver (another stand out performance from Rupert Friend – Quinn from Homeland). His unique style and questionable motives make for good viewing as he desperately tries to help the offenders, a well acted bunch of British bandits; David Ajala, Anthony Welsh, David Avery, Ashley Chin and Gershwyn Eustache Jnr. This is where the film stood out from all the usual Scum spiel that has been ripped off endlessly. Eric’s erratic behaviour is crazy, at times brutal and at one point, hilarious. But once he flies off the handle, the more times he does it and effs and blinds with some (granted) memorable quotes, it gets irritating but that is the point. That is why he is here. The sessions allow us to see his vulnerability and makes for some great moments and banter as he bonds with the class.

As we delve deeper into the prison, you see that not even the powers that be are any better. Sam Spruell (The Hurt Locker) and Sian Breckin (recently featured in BBC’s Truckers) playing the shifty governors working and undoing Oliver’s work. However, where it excels in violence, testosterone, good characters and great acting, the film lacks in pace and stutters along. The hype helps draw attention but the first hour doesn’t justify it for me. However, the last half hour makes for crucial watching and redeems a film that was starting to lose my attention and questioned whether this should have been put on FilmFour as one of their TV movie premieres. However, it all seemed to be brewing up for one big climax (steady now) that is brilliantly done, compelling and endearing. All in all, a mixed bag but one of the better ones. The best prison film? Not for me san. But certainly not the worst. Mackenzie is definitely going to be one to watch for me now. 3.5/5

Currently ranks #48 out of 155!