Saturday, August 24, 2013
When I watched ‘Blitz’ on one of the UK freeview channels last night, it was the culmination of a 24-hour period in which I watched ‘Elysium’ on the big screen and was as disappointed by it as I’d been by Blomkamp’s earlier ‘District 9’ (both labour to establish a socio-political reality in the first half only to pussy out on making a genuine political statement in favour of an increasingly pointless and clichéd retinue of tired action scenes and genre tropes), then sat through ‘Insidious’ on DVD (look out for a full review as part of October’s 13 For Halloween fright-fest) and been frustrated at the brilliance of the first two thirds degenerating into near parody during the final stretches.
So I watched ‘Blitz’ and had a couple of beers and what I might ordinarily have dismissed as mindless and derivative actually delivered some solid thrilleramics and raced effortlessly into first place as the best of the bunch. Okay, so that’s not necessarily the most robust of recommendations – in fact, I could probably have watched a third-rate giallo like ‘Amuck’ and had more fun with it.
*thinks about Rosalba Neri and Barbara Bouchet*
*takes cold shower*
*returns to review*
The first thing to say about ‘Blitz’ is that it’s not only derivative, but it wears its derivations on its sleeve. I’ve not read any of the DS Tom Brant novels by Ken Bruen (the author co-scripted the adaptation with Nathan Parker), but I can only assume he came up with ‘Blitz’ after watching a ‘Sweeney’ marathon followed by Don Siegel’s ‘Dirty Harry’ and thought “Hey, what if it was Jack Reagan who was after the Scorpio killer and he gave him a faakin’ good hiding rather than muck about with a Magnum .45?”
‘Blitz’ is ‘Sweeney’ to the nines, from the pounding foot chases through authentically shitty London locations (apart from a few overhead establishing shots of the London Eye etc that were obviously dropped in for the benefit of the overseas market, it presents the shabbiest vision of London this side of Mike Leigh’s ‘Naked’) to Brant (Jason Statham)’s casual homophobia: “You’re a good copper,” he tells his chalk ‘n’ cheese partner, newly-promoted DI Porter Nash (Paddy Considine) – “for a poofter.”
If Brant is basically a bastard, then he’s at least a bastard among bastards. Cop-killer Weiss (Aiden Gillen, having a field day) couldn’t be more hissable if he was appearing in panto (that wasn’t a spoiler by the way: his identity is revealed very early on); scuzzy journo Dunlop (David Morrissey), who keeps vital information from the cops to preserve his scoop, makes your average News of the World shit-raker look like a pillar of respectability; nark Radnor (Ned Dennehy) is little more than a sewer rat in human form; and Brant’s alcoholic colleague DS Roberts (Mark Rylance) blackmails his way back onto the force by threatening to blow the whistle on their boss Superintendent Brown (Nicky Henson)’s dalliances with an obese stripper.
It’s not a nice collection of individuals that ‘Blitz’ presents for our delectation. It says something that the two most sympathetic characters are Nash and DC Falls (Zawe Ashton), a young officer trying to put her troubled youth behind her … and of these two, Nash admits to rendering a paedophile he didn’t have enough evidence to arrest sexually inactive by repeated application of a baseball bat to the genitals, while Falls shakes down junkies and gets high on their supply.
But what it emphatically boils down to is the mano-a-mano duel between Brant and Weiss – motivated, it turns out, by a previous contretemps between the two men. ‘Blitz’ does nothing new. No insight is offered into any of its characters’ psychology. Director Elliott Lester seems to view the material as a delivery system for fast-paced chases, bone-crunching violence (Brant’s first act in the film is to discourage a group of would-be car thieves by smacking seven shades of shit out of them with a hockey stick), and smartarse authority-snubbing dialogue.
‘Blitz’ is a blunt yet fast-moving thriller; it’s unabashedly honest about what it is; and anyone who strays onto its manor and starts bleating about political correctness will probably find themselves nutted, cuffed, thrown in the back of a van and a nice “accidental” fall down some stairs back at the station.