DOWN TERRACE (Dir. Ben Wheatley, 2009)
"You're only as good as the people you know." - Bill (Robert Hill)
There is an uneasy feeling surrounding the grizzled Robert Hill and his scruffy unshaven son Robin Hill as they return to their shabby Brighton, England home after being acquitted of drug charges. The two, as Bill and Karl respectively who are real life father and son, don't know which one of their crew is a police informant though they have some suspects. Couch potato Tony Way is on the top of the list, but Kerry Peacock who shows up pregnant claiming it's Robin Hill's triggers skepticism as well.
Over the course of 2 weeks, big white letters inform us of what day it is throughout, the family (including Julia Deakin fromSpaced as the long suffering mother) pops pills, drinks, and argues - most of which is quite amusing.
A creepy Michael Smiley as the most brutal of the clan steals the film from the squabbling in its second half as he carries out some hits on those that could put an end to Hill and company's operations completely.
Comparisons to The Sopranos have been made and some scenes, like one involving Smiley and Robin Hill bickering over burying a body out in the countryside, do have that same macabre sense of humor, but with its folky music interludes DOWN TERRACE dances to a different beat.
The shaky cam low budget ambience works well for this bare yet blunt material, and though these are largely unlikable characters there's a wicked delight in watching their pissed off personalities collide.
Though heavy accented and murky at times (some story elements could have been fleshed out a bit more) "Down Terrace" is a decent debut by British television director Wheatley.
It doesn't re-invent the violent crime genre wheel, but its realistic feel and scrappy demeanor made it a worthy hour and a half of my time.
Bonus Features: Commentary with Ben Wheatley and Robin Hill, acting screen test, an extended scene, a deleted scene, "Tricks of the Amazing Wizards!!!" featurette, DOWN TERRACE teaser/festival trailer, and "Rob Loves Kerry" short film.