New Town Killers

New Town Killers


Reviewed by: Anton Bitel

Anyone who has seen Neil LaBute's In The Company Of Men (1997) might recognise something familiar in New Town Killers. Here, once again, two white-collar workers, one a sociopathic alpha male, the other imagining he wants to be one, plot to destroy an innocent party as part of a callous game – until one of the two lets the side down when he is confronted by the humanity of both their prey and of himself.

There are, however, differences too. In New Town Killers the duo's predation is not of a sexual nature, the focus is less on the businessmen than on their would-be victim, and the setting is not some sterile business conference but the nocturnal backstreets, estates and clubs of Edinburgh. The last point is crucial, for this is the last in a loose trilogy of films by former Skids member Richard Jobson, after 16 Years of Alcohol (2003) and A Woman In Winter (2005), that are devoted to the very best and the very worst the writer/director's home city has to offer – and if the deadly game of cat-and-mouse at the film's core is overtly styled like one of the many fancifully violent video games (Grand Theft Auto etc) that have been designed by Edinburgers, the social divisions it exposes are real enough.

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Things are looking bad for Sean Kelly (James Anthony Pearson). Living on a rough housing estate on the city outskirts, he is caught in the jaws of a poverty trap. His newly pregnant sister Alice (Liz White) is being pushed into crime by ruthless debt collectors, and his own best employment prospects involve working as a rentboy like his best friend Sam (Charles Mnene). But then he is approached by two well-dressed men, Alistair (Dougray Scott) and Jamie (Alastair Mackenzie), who know exactly who Sean is and what he desperately needs, and who make him an attractive offer. If he will play – and win – a game of hide-and-seek with them over one long night on the Edinburgh streets, a substantial amount of cash is his for the taking. Yet what seems to be the solution to all his problems quickly becomes a mad-dash nightmare, as Sean realises that his pursuers do not play fair and that it has never been part of the plan for him to see in the new dawn.

In New Town Killers, Jobson uses the inherent thrill of the hunt to pursue his concerns about the vast gulf between the haves and the have-nots, and the arrogant disconnect of those who view life as mere data on a screen. Though played with chilling menace by Dougray Scott, the cut-throat executive Alistair is little more than a cartoon character (Jobson is on record as stating that he wanted him to be like a video-game villain), which risks making the film's socio-economic observations lack all nuance. On the other hand, the chase sequences are carried off with real style and verve – and perhaps now, in the era of the credit crunch, viewers might just be craving for a new Gordon Gecko-like caricature of the business 'ethos'.

New Town Killers is certainly not as adventurously unconventional, as aesthetically lustrous, or as challengingly impenetrable as Jobson's previous film A Woman In Winter – but it will certainly keep you riveted until the game is over and reality dawns.

Reviewed on: 01 Nov 2008
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A skint teenager realises his life may be on the line after entering into a deadly game of hide and seek.
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Director: Richard Jobson

Writer: Richard Jobson

Starring: James Anthony Pearson, Dougray Scott, Alastair Mackenzie, Liz White, Charles Mnene

Year: 2008

Runtime: 90 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK

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