Reviewed by: Jeff Robson

There’s no doubt we’ve seen a lot of lairy London low-lifes on cinema screens lately. Barely a week seems to go by without another low-budget Guy Ritchie pastiche or Scorsese-esque cautionary tale appearing on the manor.

Fortunately Nevern’s impressive debut brings a few variations to a well-worn theme. And though he doesn’t avoid all the pitfalls of the genre, there’s enough talent on display to suggest it might be worth keeping an eye on his future projects.

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As well as writing and directing, he plays the title character – first seen hastily exiting a burglary with his equally up-for-it best mate Spencer (Ian Duck). The twist is that all their escapades are being caught on camera as part of a cinema verite project by film studies student Charlie Ruez (Manuel Atkinson).

Admittedly, Nevern’s innovation here is to borrow from another genre that’s been somewhat done to death – the faux-documentary. But it’s a believable premise and there’s only the occasional moment when one finds oneself asking: “Would he keep filming at this point?” or reflecting that Charlie’s found the perfect camera angle just when things are kicking off.

And they certainly do that with monotonous regularity. Despite Terry’s attempts to project himself as a loveable jack-the-lad who knows his limits and has the scene sussed, it quickly becomes apparent that he’s trapped in a cycle of petty crime that yields just enough money to get properly wasted and that all his diamond geezer mates are borderline psychopaths who would turn nasty, or turn him in, at a moment’s notice.

The only relationship that seems to bring out any human feeling in Terry is with Spencer, an even more volatile personality. As their meanderings lead them into ever more dangerous areas of the criminal world, it becomes clear that this is probably all going to end badly. And as the hostility of Terry’s mates to the well-spoken posho sticking his camera in their faces begins to rub off on Terry himself, you begin to wonder if Charlie’s footage may turn out to be a police exhibit...

There’s no doubt that Nevern captures the constant sense of danger, mixed with moments of anarchic exhilaration, that make up the world of people like Terry – the editing is frenetic and the soundtrack suitably pumped-up. He also subtly brings out the homoerotic element of the lads’ macho bravado and, less subtly, satirises the ludicrousness of London white boys trying to talk, dress and act like gangsta rappers, personified by the aptly-named Billy Black (Daniel Burten-Shaw).

And the format even allows for a bit of post-modern breaching of the fourth wall, where Terry’s questioning of Charlie’s motives for the project could be seen as a comment on the vicarious thrill that middle-class cinemagoers obtain from a controlled peek into the jungleland. A scene in which Terry and Spencer encourage Charlie to join them in punishing an even-lower-life who’s tried to pinch his camera is one of the film’s most disturbing.

The trouble is that we have been here before. Is anyone unaware that a large section of Britain’s young urban male population have been dealt a pretty dreadful hand? Or that a life of drug-dealing, burglary and being constantly off your face on something, for all its occasional highs, is bound to be nasty, brutish and short? There’s no attempt to suggest any answers beyond “straightening out” and getting a job. And Terry’s attitude to the ethnic minorities in his neighbourhood struck me as being a little more tolerant than it might be in real life.

But I could be wrong. Nevern undoubtedly knows the world that his characters inhabit very well and he’s very clear-eyed on the desperate lack of anything positive or meaningful that it offers. Like Sam Holland’s Zebra Crossings, this film offers an ultimately poignant portrait of a young man trapped in a destructive cycle but with no clear idea of how to get out.

It’s unlikely that anyone will emerge from this film thinking that the life of a d.o.d.g.y geezer is a glamorous lifestyle choice. For that at least, much thanks. And the undoubted flair and technical skill on display ensure that spending a bit of time in Terry’s company is one of the better evenings at the cinema you could have at the moment.

Reviewed on: 09 Mar 2011
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A film student follows a small-time criminal for a college project.
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Director: Nick Nevern

Writer: Nick Nevern

Starring: Nick Nevern, Ian Duck, Manuel Atkinson, Daniel Burten-Shaw

Year: 2011

Runtime: 82 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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