British film thriller, directed by Shane Meadows – 2004
"He's in all of us"
The Derbyshire countryside can be bleak. The sheep-dotted hills and moors are popular with ramblers for this very reason. They can seem remote and aloof, even though "civilisation" in the form of small towns is rarely far away. The hills can be raw. Here may be found biting winds to can cut you to the bone. The landscape moves from rolling plains to rocky peaks, so there is beauty in the midst of all this ragged country.
It is into this landscape that Shane Meadows places his latest tale, and true to the countryside, it is indeed bleak and raw. Paddy Considine's script tells the story of two men returning to the small town of their childhood, to battle with the demons of the past, and exact revenge for a great wrong.
This is an edgy and violent thriller, depicting Richard, a soldier returning to his home town, run by some rather pathetic small-time hoods led by Sonny, a scar-faced and abusive toughguy. There is no glamour here, in any way - Derbyshire is not Hollywood, and that is made quite clear from the opening 8mm black-and-white childhood "home movie" introduction, to the last flyby of the scene of the crime. This is not to say that the film is amateurish, because it isn't. It's as controlled, professional and honourable as Richard's own ruthless retribution, and I couldn't help but be drawn into the unfolding tale.
So what is happening?
Richard and Andrew, his younger brother, make camp in a deserted farmhouse outside the town. Richard is strong, resourceful and controlled, Andrew ("he's a spastic") is uncertain, happy-go-lucky and innocent. It's plain that Andrew has been hurt, and from the first confrontation with one of the gang, it's equally obvious that there is a deep anger which is not about to go away. After an introduction to the laughable goons and their boss, things start to Go Badly for them in a big way.
As the revenge unfolds like a bloody flower, we see the seeds of the evil deeds sown in monochrome flashback, as Sonny's evil controlling influence begins. Paralleling the undermining of that control is a masked avenger creeping around the shabby townscape, slowly weaving the web that gradually closes in on the dastardly crew, leading to the final avenging execution of Richard's retribution.
What's to like?
If you insist on polished Hollywood films, beautiful actors and scenes of gory bloodshed, do not see this film.
If you like your film to be in-your-face and tense, then do go and see it. Shane Meadows has already made his mark with Once Upon a Time in the Midlands and A Room for Romeo Brass, and he carries the same gritty kitchen sink realism into here. Death is rarely honourable or romantic, and he doesn't pull his punches, neither does he pander to over-stimulated audience appetite. There's a documentary feel to this, which really made me feel I was part of the story. It's not polished, but as I've said, it's not amateur by any means. It hits hard, and left me quite breathless.
Paddy Considine's lead as Richard is magnificent. There's a look in his eye which says "I love my brother" and another which says "I am a bastard". (As in A Room For Romeo Brass, in which he is also marvellous). He is truly wonderful, his thousand yard stare balanced by a tenderness which is at times hard to reconcile. Oh, the humanity! Gary Stretch's Sonny is equally brilliant - there's a cold look there, as in the eyes of a shark, everything is prey, everything is survival. His controlling nature is shown in his brutal treatment of everyone, even those he allows close to him, and as with Richard, this is a man you do not want to be on the wrong side of, ever.
It's a small town. Everyone knows everyone else. There are no Cadillacs, no stretch limos. There is a Citroen 2CV into which everyone in the gang piles, to absurd comic effect. There are no Uzis, no slick gunmen holding guns in that strange Hollywood-gangster grip, no clever one-line quips. There are only people, seeking revenge, fighting for their lives. These are the people you could meet in any town, it's a story which could be happening in your town, now. And it's that real.
Paddy Considine - original script
Paul Fraser - additional material
Shane Meadows - screenplay
Paddy Considine as Richard
Gary Stretch as Sonny
Toby Kebbell as Anthony
Emily Aston as Patti
Neil Bell as Soz
Craig Considine as Craig
Matt Considine as Matt Considine
Ben Dodd as Mourner
Jordan Dodd as Mourner
Lauren Dodd as Mourner
Neil Dodd as Mourner
Jo Hartley as Marie
Paul Hurstfield as Mark
Arthur Meadows as Mourner
Gill Meadows as Mourner
George Newton as Gypsy John
Seamus O'Neal as Big Al
Paul Sadot as Tuff
Andrew Shim as Elvis
Stuart Wolfenden as Herbie
Cast list from IMDb