Small Time

Small Time

***

Reviewed by: James Benefield

Small Time spins the trick of being wryly amusing yet increasingly downbeat. You can see the grit of Shane Meadows' later work in this, his feature debut.

The script is funny because of the matter-of-fact, shameless attitude with which Meadows' characters face their lifestyle of petty, if subsistence, thievery. Living in Sneinton (“...not London, not even Nottingham” one character states), they steal pallettes of dog food to fund their dope, consumption of cheap lager, sporting of shell suits and their fiver-a-throw meditation lessons.

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But it's this point of view – modesty at best, a poverty of ambition at worst, which leaks through the grot. Meadows' creations choose to keep things small time in their clothes, their homes, their relationships, their crimes. All peachy, if it keeps them happy – but it doesn't. Domestic violence and adultery is glimpsed amongst the terraces – in a strangely polite, barely talked about way. But we never feel the director dislikes or looks down on his characters; even at these people's most asinine or unpleasant moments, they're graced with light and shade, horror and warmth.

It's this voice that shines through the occasionally shambolic nature of the film's presentation. For a first feature it isn't bad – you can forgive the odd actor accidentally looking at the camera and the shoulder-chaffingly heavy leanings on Tarantino, Trainspotting and Kevin Smith, for the smart hand-held camera work, random dance sequences and ear-bleedingly authentic dialogue.

This is far from an essential entry into Meadows' rapidly increasing canon, but it's an important one. A warm and occasionally fun, if faintly melancholic and bruised, 60 minutes.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2011
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A gang of small town criminals engage in petty crime.
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Director: Shane Meadows

Writer: Shane Meadows

Starring: Tim Cunningham, Dominic Dillon, Leon Hammond

Year: 1996

Runtime: 60 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: UK

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Hell Is Other People
Trainspotting