Downtime

*

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Paul McGann is no substitute for Sly Stallone. His boot camp haircut doesn't improve matters a whole lot. This British shoestring action pic misses the point. Gritty inner city realism is one thing, Cliffhanger/Daylight something quite else.

Caspar Berry's script waffles. Even when McGann is climbing down an elevator shaft, he's talking. Even when the girl (Susan Lynch) is clinging for dear life to a greasy wire cable, she's telling bedtime stories. Why don't they keep their traps shut and concentrate on the job in hand - survival.

Imagine a decrepit tower block in Geordieland, where everyone, except an unmarried mother, a dysfunctional family and a gang of teen thugs, has left. The place is filthy, depressing, ugly and all those things that make living on the welfare state such a sick joke. The kids rule, the dad (Tom Georgeson) in the dys flat has turned his face to the wall and Chrissy (Lynch), five-year-old Jake's mum, wants to kill herself.

As if that wasn't enough, enter Rob (McGann), a screwed up, unemployed psychologist, brought along by his copper mate to talk Chrissy off a ledge 17 storeys up. He's pretty useless, but has enough superficial charm to make her reconsider the strawberry jam issue, after which he keeps coming round asking for a date. It turns out Chrissy's a ball of energy and Rob's a sad git.

Somehow, they find themselves in a lift when the teenagers are vandalising the controls. Result: claustrophobic terror sequence, which lasts for the rest of the movie. Belief is beggared and patience exhausted. Only Jake has the right idea. He sits still and doesn't say a word. The acting is varied, with Georgeson having a particularly bad day. Lynch has a fine pair of lungs and McGann a sly smile.

Hard-edged human interest has been plastered on with a trowel and Bharat Nalluri 's tendancy to telegraph the plot well in advance with easy-to-read visual clues dilutes tension. The personalities have potential until Berry starts probing into their past. Cod psychology does not suit the action hero. McGann doesn't, either.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Downtime packshot
A psychologist finds himself trapped in the lift with a girl he talked out of suicide.
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Director: Bharat Nalluri

Writer: Caspar Berry

Starring: Paul McGann, Susan Lynch, Tom Georgeson, David Roper, Denise Bryson, Adam Johnston, David Horsefield, Stephen Graham, Birdy Sweeney, Neil Armstrong, Hywel Berry

Year: 1997

Runtime: 90 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK / France

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