Think the modern city’s a claustrophobic, filthy metropolis on permanent brink of collapse? So does Gerald McMorrow, judging by his ambitious debut Franklyn.
Or at least half of him does, the half that he sets in Meanwhile City - a dystopian hellhole where religious fervour rules and masked vigilante Preest (Ryan Phillippe) searches for his nemesis.
The other half - intercut with the above - is more hopeful, taking place in a present-day London where Milo (Sam Riley, moping), Esser (Bernard Hill, looking) and Emilia (Eva Green, artistic) bumble along with their lives.
What do they all share? Naff all until the final act really, where the tapestry is revealed for anyone still interested. That McMorrow can direct is without question, marking his card with eyebrow-raisingly confident fights and rooftop chases.
His set designer deserves credit too for crafting Meanwhile City from the budget available. It’s beautifully hopeless; it’s how Gotham would be if Batman hadn’t bothered.
If he impresses with the hard part though, what lets Franklyn down is the storytelling and, perversely, the here-and-now scenes, which feel divertingly cheap. A little like a first short.
It’s a nag not aided by the script’s earnest philosophy either, seemingly ripped from a Bluffer’s Guide. Meanwhile City looks like a million dollars. London feels funded during the crunch, jarring the narrative and creating two apparently unrelated films.
Its saving grace? The impressive casting coup of Phillippe, scowling throughout like a young Russell Crowe alongside sexy young things Riley and Green.
They’re the kudos, the bloke in the mask the coolness… Overall, whatever the film’s fumbles, hazing the memory of the similarly wardrobed V For Vendetta is a strong reason to give its flawed vigilante some time.
Frustrating. Not as clever as it thinks it is, but often far better looking than you’d expect. You have to laud McMorrow for a brazen Brit debut that isn’t either A) a horror or B) takes place in a gang.