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Down Terrace [Blu-ray]  [US Import]
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Father and son Bill and Karl (real life father and son Bob and Robin Hill) have just been released from jail free and clear, but all is not well at Down Terrace. Patriarchs of a small crime family, their business is plagued with infighting. Karl has had more than he can take of his old man's philosophizing and preaching, and Bill thinks Karl's dedication to the family is seriously compromised when he takes up with an estranged girlfriend who claims to be carrying his baby. To make matters worse, theres an unidentified informant in their midst that could send them all to prison for a very long time, and none of their associates can be trusted.
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I did not believe any of the characters there was no Tony Soprano, Harold Shand or Henry Hill and to me it was some bad dream where the cast of the Royle Family turned up on the set of a gangster film but I use the term gangster loosely.
I was really looking forward to this film and can honestly say I ended up feeling let down, disappointed and wondering how to get back the89 minutes I wasted watching it
I hired it on the basis that I like gritty British gangster movies and I saw this one's trailer on another similar film. However, after about twenty minutes I got the distinct impression that I'd seen the film before, as I was predicting most of the scenes accurately. The reason for this was that I had seen it before. However, I had turned it off after about half an hour due to the fact that it was awful.
Somehow I had erased the memory of this film and then hired it out again thinking it was a different one (and, once again, duped by the trailer).
Now, I've looked on various movie-related websites and the reaction to Down Terrace is - overall - pretty positive. I don't know what it was about the film, but it just didn't do it for me.
It's about a family of gangsters who, two of which have just returned from Court, and now believe that there's a `mole' within the organisation.
Perhaps one thing that majorly bugged me was that none of the - supposed - gangsters really seemed like gangsters. Maybe I'm just used to Guy Ritchie's stereotypes, but this lot came across as a load of fat, middle-aged men who you'd find propping up the bar at a Working Man's club. They weren't in the least bit threatening (as you might expect a hardened gangster to be). As for the `black comedy' that was repeatedly mentioned in other reviews, I couldn't find any.
I forced myself to sit through the whole thing this time, hoping to find out what I was apparently missing. I couldn't see it myself. Just because a film is low budget, does not make it particularly good. I'm now writing this review in the hope that when I next watch the trailer for Down Terrace by accident, I don't think to myself `Ooh, that looks good, I think I'll watch it' and just remind myself that it's awful.
I hate to be all `overly commercial,' but I think I'll stick to Guy Ritchie's stylised representations of the London criminal underworld in future.
With this small budget debut, Wheatley established a whole series of personal, characteristic film-making traits (many of which are quite original when compared with most mainstream cinema), namely a hand-held, frequently cut, quasi-documentary look and feel; intimate, wordy, low-key dramas with very naturalistic acting; evocative, largely acoustic, music soundtracks (shot through with an aura of English medieval) and, probably most notably, a mix of (very) dark humour and bouts of (often extreme) violence. Equally, he (as in this case) has the knack of revealing his (typically macabre) key plot points very gradually, and organically, which serves to heighten audience expectation.
Wheatley also has an eye for assembling outstanding casts of relatively unknown British (predominantly TV) actors and Down Terrace is a prime example in this respect. His central three protagonists, parents Bill (Robert Hill, Robin's real-life father) and Maggie (Julia Deakin) and son Karl (Robin Hill) are all excellently played in their depiction of the fractious family members, with Deakin just about stealing the acting honours for me as the outwardly caring, but inwardly ruthless, (small-time) 'gangland moll'. There are also particularly impressive turns from David Schaal as Eric, Kerry Peacock as Karl's 'intended' Valda and from Wheatley-regular Michael Smiley as nutter (but here with surprisingly redeeming qualities) Pringle.
It would be possible (though unwise and probably rather disturbing, I would suggest) to read Wheatley's film as a straight drama and there are moments where the director does a very convincing job that this is a caring (albeit totally dysfunctional) family. However, any such illusions are always quickly dispelled, often with the film's brilliant moments of naturalistic dark humour, which do serve to (somewhat) lighten the film's menacing tone - such as when Karl turns to his pregnant 'girlfriend' Valda and asks, 'Do you like Hitler? I've got a rare book about him?' or where Maggie quips (having just despatched a close family member), 'All I ever do is clear up after bloody men'. Of course, the film's central premise, that (literally) everyone is under suspicion of being a grass and therefore must be done away with, eventually becomes the film's defining, all-consuming and really (for me, at least) very funny characteristic.
The film that Down Terrace reminds me of most in fact is Shane Meadows' Dead Man's Shoes (albeit with a more direct black comedy element), and although I would not rate it as highly as Meadows' film it is (for me) a compelling, and rather original, watch.
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