Aiming for the lofty heights of Short Cuts and Requiem For A Dream, writer Simon Fantauzzo's debut feature charts the fortunes and misfortunes of eight different people over one muggy day in the English capital. Geezers for hire Tamer Hassan and Danny Dyer hang up the macho swaggering to have a go at dramatic thesping, while TV director Steve Kelly (Judge John Deed, The Bill, Holby City) shoots with widescreen flair.
A hard look into loneliness, City Rats deftly juggles four different stories, but the chic bleak misery echoes loudly in the lead characters' uniformly vast, sparsely furnished flats, and never rings true.
A businessman (Hassan) throws melons of his office roof because he cannot throw himself off. He spots a woman (Buring) on building opposite, also steeling herself to jump, and the two partner up, looking for meaning.
A failed artist (Panthaki) believes the crippled prostitute upstairs (Lynch) is the muse who can restore his mojo.
A closet homosexual (Doughty) attempts to fix up his gay, deaf, autistic brother (Lance) with a rent boy, and then an old flame.
A one-time criminal (Dyer) helps his former partner's mother (Williams) look for son, forcing him to dig into his past.
Sorely in need of an injection of black humour or wit, City Rats is a long trawl through picture postcard London, populated by underwritten characters mouthing unlikely dialogue.
Of the four stories, Dyer's is the best and could be expanded into a feature of its own. But, all involved should remember that unremitting misery can sometimes produce the biggest unintentional giggles.