This one took me completely by surprise. I had heard nothing of this film before I saw it. It is directed by first time director/scriptwriter/producer Alex Jovy. A graduate of law, he has never been to film school. He produced one short film before this that won several awards, as well as an Academy award nomination. It is gratifying to see new British directors getting funding to kick off their careers, and in the case of Jovy the investment is justified.
Given the number of British films that rely too heavily on ‘mockneys’ and ‘diamond geezers’, it’s refreshing to see a film that generally avoids them. The plot is simple enough and is attempting to fuse a thriller/love story with London club culture. Carl (Matthew Rhys) is a Scunthorpe boy who has come to London to put his late brother’s effects in order. Upon his arrival he discovers his brother (Justin) had a girlfriend, Sunny (Sienna Guillroy), and an eclectic collection of friends including Jason Donovan as a wonderfully camp transvestite DJ. What follows is Carl’s introduction to London’s hedonistic club scene with all that it entails. He gets embroiled in the club/drug culture and discovers some things about his brother that he probably would have felt better not knowing. Complications occur when he discovers what his brother was really up to. Finally Carl has to make some hard decisions and tie up all the loose ends before the credits roll.
Some have drawn comparisons with Human Traffic, but I think this is a little unfair as this film has a more serious edge to it. The film is heavily influenced by the club/drug culture and those into this scene may get a lot more out of it (the only club I visit is a Golf Club). Certainly the rave/club scenes do give us a vivid taste of the atmosphere, and some of the more psychedelic moments are handled very well indeed.
The film is shot beautifully. The direction and shot composition is for the most part excellent. A hint of Danny Boyle here as Alex Jovy’s style is definitely reminiscent of Trainspotting, Shallow Grave and The Beach. The use of digital techniques to generate atmosphere are both inventive and effective. As might be expected with a debut his style wobbles in places, but this is a promising start.
The acting is pretty impressive on the whole. Matthew Rhys plays a good lead role and is convincing as the northern lad out of his depth. Fay Masterson also gives a good performance as Tiffany, one of Justin’s closest friends. Sienna Guillroy is weak as Justin’s girlfriend but Jason Donovan is delightful in his transvestite role. Unfortunately Tim Curry, here playing a villain and a club owner helps ruin the last third of the film. He is camp, and overacts in every scene he is in.
And here we reach the main problem with the film. The thriller/love story plot that ties the whole thing together intrigues us at first. Then it becomes ludicrous and full of holes, until by the end it really goes off the rails. It seems the scriptwriter couldn’t think of a decent way to end the film and instead bolted together a rather unbelievable and out of character ending. It’s a real shame as the first hour of the film is very promising and entertaining. Unfortunately I can’t go into it in too much depth for fear of spoiling the plot. As a result we are left with a film that is a good try, but falls at the final hurdle. This would have worked extremely well as a one-off TV drama, but as a film it’s only just above average.
The presentation of this disc is excellent. The menus are inventive, if a little difficult to navigate in places. There are 26 chapter stops that are adequate given the 98-minute running time.
The transfer is 2.35:1 anamorphic as it was intended. This is a good clear print with little or no artifacting. The colour depth is rich throughout and the club scenes look suitably colourful, intentionally over-colourful in places. The picture is a little soft on occasion with some shimmer, but as good a transfer as you’d expect from a low budget film. However, the layer change is noticeable and right in the middle of a scene (lazy encoding).
The sound is presented as a DD 5.1 track. The club scenes come alive and the music really does have a lot of kick to it (as it should). The rears are used very well for the music, but have limited use in other scenes. The only problem is that the club scenes are understandably loud, which may cause some (like me) to be constantly changing volume levels between scenes. Then again I might just be getting old. There is also a DD 2.0 soundtrack for those without full 5.1 sound systems.
Given the low budget nature of the film you would be forgiven for thinking that the extras would be sparse or non-existent. The reality is a pleasant surprise.
For starters there is a collection of deleted scenes with optional audio commentary. Following this there is a montage of outtakes that are pleasant enough. Note that these outtakes and deleted scenes are also in anamorphic 2.35:1 and are of similar transfer quality to the film itself, which makes a change.
Next up is a collection of filmographies and interviews with a lot of the cast and crew. Choosing an actor/crew member brings up a picture and some scrolling text outlining their career to date. The majority also have an optional interview that runs between 3-minutes and 15-minutes. Total runtime of all interviews is around 50-minutes. This sounds great, but a lot of the interviews are the usual pre-release fawning and back slapping. Given the behind the scenes footage available it would have been better to cut this footage alongside the interviews, to make a more thorough one hour making-of documentary.
The biggest surprise was the presence of an audio commentary by director Alex Jovy, who is joined by producer Mark Crowdy. It is always interesting to hear a debut director’s thoughts, as they are fairly new to the industry and bring a freshness that is gratifying to hear. There are some silences and unnecessary explanation of scenes, but even so this is a lively and enjoyable commentary.
Finally we have a couple of fillers. A featurette is never usually grounds for celebration and this one is no exception. It only runs for 4-minutes and is simply a montage of behind the scenes footage. There is also a bog standard trailer that as usual contains spoilers (sigh).
The film is an interesting one, but I doubt many would watch it more than once. The picture, sound, and extras are very difficult to fault given its low budget origins. An good all round disc that is unfortunately let down by a distinctly average film. Fans of the club scene will obviously get more out of this film. As for the rest of you, I recommend you watch it, if only for the first hour that shows real promise from a new director.