Hard Boiled Sweets
"Ty Glaser, who looks like Sally Hawkins dipped in Footballers Wives, purrs along with devilish charm and Adrian Bower is superbly brutish."

A running joke about hard boiled sweets helps make Hughes’s debut feature more palatable than a typical low-budget gangster film. What constitutes a running joke about hard boiled sweets? Character does something. Screen goes black. White writing diagnoses their sweet’a’like following up with a pithy summary. Boss’s wife Porsche (Ty Glaser) is a sherbet lemon. “The sweet that’s really tasty and tart”. London moneyman “Jimmy the Gent” (Peter Wight) is a mint imperial. “The king of the mints. Even if it does look like a mothball”. This surreal but entertaining conceit sets the tone for a film which, for all its aspirations to drama, plays out like a genre parody.

Developed from Hughes’s 2007 short film A Girl And A Gun, with some characters and dialogue lifted wholesale, Hard Boiled Sweets unapologetically casts Southend in the same slick, neon light as any Hollywood noir. This strength comes into its own when Hughes goes for the visual pastiche - a pimp with a bandaged nose glares at the camera from a leopard-print sofa where he sits draped with hos. This shot would be less hard-boiled, more half-baked if it wasn’t so obviously a send up of the sort of film that takes macho wish-fulfilment more seriously.

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Where HBS’s good-natured cheek can’t save it is plot and character. Action is driven by three separate parties plotting to rob Jimmy the Gent during his annual rent collection visit to Southend. The film's structure goes - gradual introduction to characters, drama, end. Tension is not seen as important, yet the actors do their best with the material. Ty Glaser, who looks like Sally Hawkins dipped in Footballers Wives, purrs along with devilish charm and Adrian Bower is superbly brutish as “Daddy” the aforementioned pimp who gets high on his own supply.

Their two characters are the stereotypical icing on a stereotypical cake. Southend mob boss is a cockney bastard whose idea of serving breakfast in bed is opening his robe and announcing with a leer, “breakfast of champions, sweet’art”. Then there’s the bent copper, the duplicitous jailbird and a host of smaller parts from the Gangster Supply Closet.

Despite these serious flaws, HBS is never boring as the witty writing never dips. Sometimes delivered with a Carry On gleam (“Eddie hates the gent. I mean Marmite hate”) and sometimes with a poker face (before a shooting: “A cunt without a hole is a useless cunt!”), the deliberate silliness drags it into Naked Gun territory, farcical mood amped up by touches including a number plate reading, “LC03 HGE”.

Undermined by its desire to be something more than a comedy, Hard Boiled Sweets is enjoyable to suck on but, as you might expect from a gobstopper, contains no real meat. Nice flavour though.

Reviewed on: 28 Feb 2012
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Hard Boiled Sweets packshot
Gangsters exchange arch lines and hatch desperate plans under the bright lights of Southend.
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