The Long Good Friday, Sexy Beast, Gangster No. 1… there are many fine examples of the British gangster film. But it’s also the go-to genre for every new filmmaker with Danny Dyer’s phone number.
Refreshing, then, to find a debut that shines new light on guns and geezers.
Having narrowly escaped a spell inside, small-time crooks Bill and Karl (robert and robin hill, real-life father and son playing the same on screen) celebrate their acquittal with heavy drinking and bickering banter. There’s also the matter of violent retribution for the snitch – should they get round to it…
Shot with handheld digital cameras, Ben Wheatley’s big screen bow has a naturalistic look far removed from Lock Stock slickness. Like a lo-fi Sopranos, Terrace is as interested in family dynamics as crime, with a distinctly British flavour.
And unlike so many before him, Wheatley doesn’t plumb for Goodfellas glamour. Instead, there’s a sense of claustrophobic misery leavened by coarse humour and folk-guitar noodling.
While the script is well-served by familiar sitcom faces (Julia ‘Spaced’ Deakin), the real revelation is relative unknown Robert Hill, casually projecting patriarchal menace from his armchair. Neither he nor Hill Jr look much like how movie gangsters are supposed to look – micro-budgets don’t stretch to Armani suits – but Wheatley mines both plausibility and dark laughs from this.
Bill’s rambling explanation of how a hippy hobby drifted into a career makes a kind of sense – as does the resultant glazed look on his son’s face.
Down Terrace is a Brit-gangster film that rarely feels like one – and is much the better for it.
More slippers than sharp suits, Down Terrace is a kitchen-sink crime flick that turns minimal resources into sturdy virtues. Rough but smart.