Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

An adaptation of his own play, Rikki Beadle Blair's Bashment is, in some ways, difficult to fault, because it's clearly achieving exactly what it sets out to achieve. There's no pretence at subtlety in its fierce exploration of issues around homophobia, racism and class - it wants to make its point and it does so. The real problem is that said point isn't very insightful, has been made many times before in better ways, and cannot save what is in many respects an awful film.

The story begins with JJ (Joel Dommett), a young white man who covets and perhaps genuinely empathises with black traditions of raging against oppression, who gets verbally aggressive in his determination to win some space onstage in the local dancehall. The problem is that he hasn't understood the boundaries (or lack of boundaries) of the aggressive response this triggers in the hall's usual stars - and that he's taken along his fay boyfriend, a natural target for their anger. Cue a brutal beating that leaves the boyfriend bran damaged, JJ a frustrated carer, and the bashment regulars in prison. Everybody has lessons to learn. And, in a plot that stretches credulity and neatly dodges around the difficult bits, they do learn them.

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Admirers of subtlety in cinema are probably not going to see a Beadle Blair film in the first place - that's fair enough. Even they, however, are likely to feel disappointed by a story that's utterly unconvincing except as a utopian fantasy. The characters are two-dimensional and the few actors who do deliver - most notably Nathan Clough as the leader of the gang - get far too little screentime. An successful ensemble film needs much sharper writing and stronger performances than this. But then, it barely has time for character development when it's packing in so many clich├ęs.

Everything here is overstated to the point of absurdity. Attempts to explore the reasons behind such violence eschew ambiguity in favour of muddle. Any intelligent approach to exploring class founders on a token middle class character so exaggerated that he seems to have wandered in from another film but would seem ludicrous anywhere. The token female character is a little more successful (Jennifer Daley does a lot with very little) but the interesting issues she raises - around the tension between race and sex-based oppression - are the only ones in the film to remain underexplored. Then there are the occasional attempts to break the fourth wall, including an out-of-body singsong sequence during the beating itself, which destroy any possible tension with their desperate media-studies-homework pretentiousness.

There are fascinating issues underneath, but this is no My Beautiful Laundrette. Somebody left it on the spin cycle for too long.

Reviewed on: 09 Sep 2013
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When a group of black reggae fans beat up a white gay man, there are challenges ahead for all involved.

Director: Rikki Beadle Blair

Writer: Rikki Beadle Blair

Starring: Joel Dommett, Ludvig Bonin, Nathan Clough, Marcus Kai, Jennifer Daley, Arnie Hewitt, Michael Lindall

Year: 2010

Runtime: 110 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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