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New Release Review - A LANDSCAPE OF LIES

A LANDSCAPE OF LIES review
Following the murder of his commanding officer, an ex-soldier falls in with gangsters.







Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Paul Knight

Starring: Andrea McLean, Danny Midwinter, Andre Nightingale, Anna Passey, Marc Bannerman

A LANDSCAPE OF LIES poster

It’s a depressing thing to admit, but sometimes when I’m watching certain films for review - specifically those movies with low production values and, crucially, even lower aspirations - I have to wonder who the heck is going to watch them, and where on earth they’ll eventually end up. The means of film production has never been more inexpensive, and the variety of available content never more ample or accessible. To paraphrase Jeremy from Peep Show, films are full: there’s no more room in films. There are simply too many movies; the wheat itself often gets overlooked, never mind the DTV chaff. How bleak the outlook for these micro-budget efforts, with their ropey performances and crude compositions. How heart-breaking that the months of time expended, and a budget scraped together from loans, overdrafts and the coins down the back of the sofa, ultimately culminates in some press from the Waffler (all said, I am enormously proud that we give space to films which other sites ignore) and then on to infinite obscurity. Why bother?

A LANDSCAPE OF LIES

Paul Knight’s crime-caper-come-combat-cartoon-crapfest A Landscape of Lies may have some sinister answers. This is how the shakedown works: you tell the taxman that you are going to make a film that uses British talent and which costs just shy of £20 million. The taxman, a decent fella who wants to support the underdog British film industry, will then issue a cash rebate of up to 25%. What you do then is falsify a bunch of documents which deceptively attest to the millions already spent on the film, fashion some fanciful receipts and just shamelessly give it large with the hot air: you might, for instance, chance your arm and say that the script development alone cost £400,00 (as the producers of A Landscape of Lies did…). For the sake of appearances, you’ll have to produce something or other, so chuck some eager beavers a few measly grand (think of it as an investment) and with a bit of luck they’ll pull together something that resembles an actual film. And if they don’t, hey ho, at least we tried, damnit. Can I have my free millions now, please?

The producers of A Landscape of Lies (are they taking the piss with that title, etc) managed to scam £1.2 million in film tax relief before HMRC cottoned on to them. Poor old Knight, who claims complete ignorance of the wider con, apparently sunk 20 buckets of his own cash into the project. Mind you, in publicity he’s also boasted about a criminal past, so he’s no angel (all joking aside, in a court of law Mr Knight has been completely exonerated of any wrongdoing regarding A Landscape of Lies). I’m all about giving people a chance though, so from here on in, we’ll put its inglorious context to one side and view A Landscape of Lies on its ‘own merits.’

A LANDSCAPE OF LIES

Not really a film, more a series of random incidents edited together, A Landscape of Lies is about an ex-soldier who gets involved with some gangsters following the murder of his commanding officer. There is a sexy marriage counsellor involved somewhere, along with a bratty kid and something to do with property development (I think).

The plot is so dislocated, the stories so disparate, that it almost seems you’re watching a portmanteau film re-edited at random. At the start of the movie there is a scene where a teenage girl is in class getting a bollocking off her teacher; he sends her to the head and she quips something like ‘what, and then you’ll join us for a threesome; you wish you pervy nonce.’ Indicative of the film’s scattershot plotting, the teacher thenceforth disappears from the narrative and so, more or less, does the kid. Still, the sequence serves to establish the movie’s charmless mode-of-address, and also, seeing as the teacher is played by the vaguely recognisable Paul Reynolds, you can begin to see the deeper machinations behind the movie. Half the fun is spotting the features of A Landscape of Lies which could have been put on for the taxman’s benefit, such as identifiable actors who pop up for minimal screen time but which, presumably, are recorded as having worked on the film for more receipt-friendly periods. Here’s Gianni from Eastenders and star of I’m a Celebrity, Marc Bannerman, roaring into frame in a bright red Ferrari (scratch up another receipt) thinking he’s chocolate. To be fair, Gianni is ace. He shouts out of his window to his mate Jacob (Andre Nightingale) ‘OI OI SAVELOY’ and then when Jacob asks him if he’s coming or going he smirks ‘I’ve already finished coming, son,’ reaching out of the window to give Jacob a soft smack on the side of his face before zooming off in his jumped up rollerskate - YES! Shame, then, that he dies a few scenes later ☹.

A LANDSCAPE OF LIES

Andrea McClean, ex weather presenter come light entertainment chat show host, has a central role, and gives a performance exactly like an ex weather presenter come light entertainment chat show host would, and also has the ignominy of enacting the most unconvincing lesbian kiss ever committed to screen (rather sweetly, McClean’s casting was due to Knight randomly tuning in to Loose Women one afternoon and thinking that the appealing presenter would be ideal for his bisexual therapist character - I bet you did, son!). The villain - ‘don’t watch gangster films, I’m the evil fucking bastard they base them on’ - is like a baddie from a kid’s film, and his hysterical overacting made me wonder if he wasn’t in on the whole racket and just decided to make the most of it by having a laugh. Then there’s an insane child abuse denouement which, if it wasn’t so clumsy, could be considered as deeply offensive. As Jacob laments, ‘I don’t quite know what to say.’

What a sordid business. In the press release for A Landscape of Lies, upon the subject of low budgets and other such constraints, Mr Knight claims that he ‘loves a challenge.’ If you too share Knight’s masochistic outlook, then by all means give A Landscape of Lies a go.

A Landscape of Lies premieres 18th January at London's Courthouse Hotel, with select UK/ROI screenings planned across January and February.





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