2009 Certificate: 15

Synopsis

The British gangster movie cliche - mockney muppets on the make - is sweetly subverted in this splendidly unconventional comedy-thriller from first-time director Ben Wheatley. A Brighton-based father-and-son crimmo outfit (Robin Hill and his real-life dad Robert) wrack their brains figuring out who ratted on them... and the finger of suspicion begins to waggle rather close to home. Subtle performances, spot-on characterisation and a superb mother-from-hell in Julia Deakin make this a unexpected pleasure. Lawks-a-mercy, whoda thort it?

Director

  • Ben Wheatley

Cast

  • Robin Hill

  • Robert Hill

  • Julia Deakin

  • David Schaal

Review

Public school boys spouting mockney? Er, no. A tasty geezer getting fresh with his bird? Nope. Unlikely bank job carried out after a gang of herberts snort a cocaine mountain? Not a sign.

No, debut director Ben Wheatley has heroically resisted the temptation to swagger down the bullet-strewn path of Guy Ritchie-lite and cast Danny Dyer or Tamer Hassan as a potty-mouthed wideboy.

What he has done is channel Mike Leigh into a bitterly twisted tale of a Brighton criminal family imploding in a fruitless quest to discover who grassed them up. It's a paranoid mission that takes out their nearest and (not so) dearest.

Bill (Robert Hill) and Karl (his son Robin) have just swerved a court hearing and are now obsessed with finding the snitch that had a word with the Old Bill.

Bill is a conundrum - an old school, minor mobster who also flirts with hippy philosophy. Karl's speccy demeanor cloaks a conspiracy theorist with anger management issues who flogs Nazi memorobilia as a sideline.

The latter's quest for the squealer is further confused when his ex-girlfriend Valda (Peacock) - a unreliable floozie who has jailbirds for pen pals - turns up on the doorstep and announces she's up the stick.

Bill and his wife (a splendidly vengeful Julia Deakin) don't like the idea of becoming grandparents and are growing ever more impatient at Karl's inability to redecorate the sitting room. However they still have a much bigger concern - to find the leak and stop it, even if it kills them (literally).

Neatly dotting a domestic drama with gangster cliches, Wheatley has concocted a strong, character-driven black comedy saga given added dramatic heft by veterans of The Office, Spaced and I'm Alan Partridge (Steve Coogan's Baby Cow production company is a major investor).

Barking and bittersweet, it's a bit tasty.

Tim Evans