Monday, 24 October 2011

LFF 2011 Reviewdump #4:
Junkhearts / The Awakening / Wild Bill

The London Film Festival's still trucking, and I'm still dumping. This is turning out to be one of the longest dumps I've ever had.

Good old-fashioned British misery porn is back with a vengeance in this heart-freezing tale of an ex-soldier (Eddie Marsan going bat-shit crazy, for once) who semi-befriends a homeless junkie (excellent newcomer Candese Reid), only for things to descend into the kind of unpleasantness that the occupants of every inner city council flat must at some point suffer according to the British film industry.

Even at ninety minutes Junkhearts goes on a bit - there always seems to be time to cram in another woozy, out-of-focus drug-taking sequence - and an ostensibly unconnected subplot feels redundant when it finally ties in to the rest of the film. Having said that, the performances are all great, and there's a grimly realistic cloud of despair hanging over everything, which means when the sun breaks through for the brief and infrequent fun bits, there's a heightened sense of hope.

I'm still not sure what The Observer film critic Jason Solomons thinks he's doing playing a barman in an early scene though; what next, Robbie Collin as a pimp? Alan Frank as a crack dealer? Chris Tookey as an East End mob boss? This madness must end now.

The Awakening
Despite all the amusing photoshopping opportunities afforded by the above still, the awakening of the title does not refer to the arousal from a flaccid state of Dominic West's penis by Rebecca Hall via manual stimulation. More's the pity, because The Awakening could have done with a good wanking scene as light hand relief from some of the overwrought melodrama that seems mandatory in British period films, even when they're about wonky-faced ghost children lurking about in a boys' boarding school.

Hall is pretty good as a 1920s ghostbuster - the opening scenes catch her character mid-mission, like the pre-title sequence of some eerie interbellum Bond film, suggesting a possible franchise for her character: Florence Cathcart: The Spook Spook. Sadly what we get is a fairly bog-standard mystery with a couple of mild scares (the wonky-faced child is really quite disturbing) and a TV-movie conclusion that reveals where Take Shelter got all its ending's ambiguity from - nothing in The Awakening is left unexplained, which stops it just short of being a classy chiller. Harmless fun though, and good to see Imelda Staunton making good post-Potter use of her Dolores Umbridge face. Tue 25, Wed 26

Wild Bill
Dexter Fletcher's East End western, complete with the tower blocks of Newham in place of Monument Valley, a last-act showdown in a saloon and the Playbill typeface plastered all over the titles, is surprisingly good fun considering it deals with many of the issues featured in Junkhearts, but without the all-consuming, crushing sense of despondency that made that film such a LOL riot.

Wild Bill also sensibly stays away from the Guy Ritchie school of filmmaking to which Fletcher, with his useless drug dealers and Jason Flemying cameo, could easily have succumbed. In fact as directing debuts go, Press Gang's Spike Thompson is now destined for the "Ones To Watch" lists alongside the likes of Ayoade and Cornish, despite delivering a much more down-to-Earth film. The Attack The Block comparisons won't end there though: Sammy Williams (ATB's pre-teen terror Probs) is the standout cast member here, and the iconic tracking shot beneath the tower block makes a guest appearance, only this time in daylight.

Wild Bill's underworld crims may not be entirely convincing (I don't know, I've never met any) and Andy Serkis' mob boss is a bit of a cliché, but these are minor gripes that - while undermining the Gritty Social Realism (© Ken Loach & Andrea Arnold plc) - do help to make the film an enjoyable experience rather than the glumfest it could have been. Well done Spike! *pats head patronisingly* Thu 27

1 comment :

  1. The Awakening is a boring waste of time. Don't bother even if it is on Freeview 'Cheapest Films +1'.