The Marker

***

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

The Marker
"Edgar keeps things 'real', with the violence brutal but believable and with psychological underpinnings that are more complex than the average gangland thriller."

Nobody could accuse director Justin Edgar of not trying something different, his films are eclectic, from the comedy of Special People and We Are The Freaks to a stint on BBC's Doctors. He turns to altogether more bleaker subject matter for his latest, The Marker, which slots firmly into the burgeoning category of gritty British crime drama, while leaving behind the usual London backdrop for the Birmingham underworld.

Like so many screen cons before him, Marley (Frederick Schmidt) is about to taste freedom and face the temptation that goes with it. The difference for him - and the chief marker of Edgar's story - is that he is haunted by the memory of the woman he killed. Young mum Ana (Ana Ularu) isn't merely a figment, she is presented here as a real physical presence, who we see from Marley's perspective. The killing wasn't intentional but the result of panic when he came across her young child hiding under a bed.

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The film makes no excuses for Marley, who has a history of violence. But, as we are to discover, that particular history stretches back to his own childhood and his unhealthy relationship with gang boss Brendan Doyle (John Hannah), who is very keen to welcome his stray back to the fold.

Ghosts as a manifestation of guilt are nothing new - Shakespeare, in particular, was rather fond of them - however Ana isn't just a memory, but an ongoing spur to Marley's actions in the present, particularly with regard to her, now teenage, daughter Jess. "When I get out, I'm going to look after her," he tells the ether.

On the outside, Doyle is waiting and Jess (Skye Lourie) is on the lam, and it's not long before Marley faces a race against time to get the girl out of danger.

The film hinges on the idea that "every saint has a past and every sinner has a future", suggesting that redemption is possible. Along the way, Edgar's screenplay holds a decent amount of surprise, providing you're willing to go with the central conceit and the dubious assertion that Jess has no idea what her mum's killer looks like, despite the fact such a murder and subsequent trial would surely make the papers in the real world.

Schmidt is a brooding presence in the lead role, which is just as well, because Hannah's accent is an Irish rover, straying all over the place and ending up all at sea somewhere between Ireland and Scotland. Why he couldn't have simply used his own accent as a Scottish gangland boss is anyone's guess, there's certainly plenty of them or, if Irish was a deal-breaker, why not cast a native?

The setting is also under-used because despite Birmingham offering fresh landscapes, we're almost at the mid-point of the film before we hear a local accent. It's no doubt a result of the fact that many actors are concentrated in the south-east - and that the Brummy accent is hard to pull off for a non-native - but it's a shame they couldn't have cast more local talent to add to the sense of place. In general, though, Edgar keeps things 'real', with the violence brutal but believable and with psychological underpinnings that are more complex than the average gangland thriller.

Reviewed on: 26 Jul 2017
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A criminal seeks redemption.

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EIFF 2017

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