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New Release Review - SET THE THAMES ON FIRE

Two young men drift through a dystopian London.






Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Ben Charles Edwards

Starring: Michael Winder, Max Bennett, Sally Phillips, Gerard McDermott, Sadie Frost, Noel Fielding, Lily Loveless



The film's one standout moment features a melancholy magician (David Hoyle) who weaves a touching monologue around a card trick. It's a moment of warmth in an otherwise cold film.



"Sometimes all it takes to become friends is to be the only two people in the room who aren't c*nts!" That's the crude creedo that brings together Art (Michael Winder) and Sal (Max Bennett), the central protagonists of Ben Charles Edwards' ambitious but dreary directorial debut, Set the Thames on Fire, a blackly comic steampunk drama set in a dystopian fantasy London.



Art is a struggling pianist who takes a gig performing at a Halloween party attended by a collection of grotesque upper-class types and presided over by an underworld figure known as The Impresario (Gerard McDermott). It's there he encounters Sal, employed as a waiter, and the two instantly bond over their dislike of their fellow attendees and London itself.



Like Midnight Cowboy by way of Terry Gilliam, Set the Thames on Fire follows the two young men as they wander through this heavily stylised vision of a future Dickensian London, drifting past beautiful matte paintings and encountering a variety of Fellini-esque characters, while an Orwellian tannoy system informs the residents of London of their ongoing plight. As with Joe Buck and Ratso Rizzo, they're on a quest to cobble together the money that will allow them to escape their city for warmer climes, in this case Egypt.



The film offers up a series of vignettes based around Art and Sal's encounters, most of which leave little impression. They meet Art's horny landlady, played by Sadie Frost, one of the film's producers; they attend a pop concert, the music replaced by classical piano and slo-mo dancing in a scenario we've witnessed many times before; they find themselves in the S&M dungeon of a transgender man (Noel Fielding) - a set-piece that borders on homophobia by mining the prospect of gay sex for cheap laughs. The one standout encounter is that with a melancholy magician (David Hoyle) who weaves a touching monologue around a card trick. It's a moment of warmth in an otherwise cold film.

Set the Thames on Fire is in cinemas from 16th September, on demand from 19th September and on DVD from 26th September.






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