By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
I’ve only seen one Ben Wheatley film up until now- The Kill List– which I found to be half a captivating, mysterious thriller and half an exercise in tenuous plotting enslaved by a lame final twist. After that, my expectations for his debut film were quite low- and I’m not alone in my ambivalent Wheatley opinion. He’s certainly not everyone’s cup of tea (because he’s British, see). Not sure what the American equivalent of that phrase is.
Everyone’s lukewarm can of light beer?
This movie is an odd bird, but all the better for it. You can’t say Ben Wheatley doesn’t have ideas, or a certain visual flair. For the latter, the movie is sometimes gorgeous, and I particularly liked the “Days of the Week” Chapter Heading Scenes, shot on grainy film stock and accompanied by the blues (the entire soundtrack is great, in fact).
The rest of the film is shot, however, in a very low key handheld style, and that coupled with the ample dry British situational humor makes for an odd mix with the gangster elements of the story. It’s like if David Brent from the office shanked a coworker for using up all of the toner.
I could see it.
It’s kind of genius, insofar as it makes the violence quite shocking when it happens, especially as the bodies begin to pile up and the domestic comedy just keeps on rolling. I also have to raise my glass to the acting of Robert Hill and Julia Dankin- the patriarch and matriarch of the crime family. They’re equally adept at comedy and villainy, and carry the film at times.
Unfortunately, Robert’s real life son, Robin Hill (Karl in the film), is not the same class of actor as dear old Dad, particularly when he’s yelling, which is often. Neither are the majority of the supporting cast. The result is a film with a few good performances, and a bunch of improv night wanna-bes.
I don’t like faulting a low budget, but when in some scenes Wheatley shows that he can make the most of one, I have to wonder why he chooses to shoot most of the film in ugly, cheap HD cam drabness.
Down Terrace is a strange little mix of dysfunctional family drama and crime movie. It’s uneven as hell, but I dug it.
Take a Drink: for the blues
Take a Drink: whenever the narration changes
Take a Drink: for every different romantic interest
Do a Shot: every time Karl freaks the fuck out (unconvincingly)