You could interpret this 1993 paean to joyriding as the subversive voice of alienated youth in a post-Thatcherite, pre-Millennial urban dystopia. Alternatively, you could say it was The One Where Jude Met Sadie.

Law plays Billy, a cocky misfit who steals cars and ram-raids shopping centres for fun. Frost is Jo, a tough-talking Belfast girl with spiky hair, cool shades and plenty of attitude. They live in an underground world of fast cars, hard drugs and casual violence, a bleak inner city wasteland that could be London or Manchester or Newcastle. It rains a lot and the streets are strewn with burnt out cars.

Billy hides out in a dilapidated caravan and when that gets trashed he takes refuge in an abandoned old freight train. It's grim, but it's home for Billy, a rebel who doesn't know what he's rebelling against. Maybe, he just likes helping himself to other people's cars and trying to stay one step ahead of the law.

At the start of the film we see him being released from prison after a three-month stretch. A sympathetic copper (Jonathan Pryce), who has been locking him up for years, tries to hammer some sense into him.

"What's prison taught you, Billy?" he asks.

"Don't get caught," Billy replies.

Within hours of his release, Billy is up to his old tricks again. He and Jo steal a BMW and while Billy whoops with delight as they make their getaway, Jo rummages through the owner's cassettes - Billy Joel, Whitney Houston, Dire Straits - and tosses them out the window, disgusted.

It's as if nothing has changed. Billy is back and he's still top dog. But things aren't quite the same. Tommy (Sean Pertwee), Billy's main rival, has muscled in on his action and now wants Billy to work for him. Billy and Tommy should be thick as thieves - they both get high on nicking cars and ram-raiding department stores - but they have little in common. Billy steals for the hell of it, Tommy does it for profit. Billy helps himself to a new kettle as a keepsake; Tommy steals expensive suits to order.

You know it's all going to end in tears, but Billy can't help himself, not even when Jo begs him to run away with her. Brought up on the tough streets of Belfast, she has seen it all before, but still hopes things can get better. Billy doesn't want to leave; he's been away, he says, and it was no better there.

"Where?" Jo asks.

"Durham."

"What's in Durham?"

"Prison."

That's part of the problem. Everything hangs on Billy, but he's empty. He has nothing. No plans, no dreams, nothing to say. Even Jo can't get through to him. He doesn't even respond when she comes on to him. He's lost everything, even his libido.

All he has is a love of fast cars, and that becomes tiresome, unless screeching rubber and handbrake turns are your thing. During one high-speed race against the police, Jo plays a handheld video game about a high-speed race against the police. It's a nice touch, but after a while the movie itself becomes little more than an arcade game - flat, monotonous, nothing to say.

In the end, it feels empty, just like Billy.

Reviewed on: 03 Aug 2004
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Joyriding action with Jude Law and Sadie Frost.
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Director: Paul W S Anderson

Writer: Paul W S Anderson

Starring: Sadie Frost, Jude Law, Sean Pertwee, Fraser James, Sean Bean, Marianne Faithfull, Jonathan Pryce, Daniel Newman, Lee Whitlock, Ralph Ineson, Eamonn Walker, Jason Isaacs

Year: 1993

Runtime: 105 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK

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