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New Release Review - STRANGEWAYS HERE WE COME

STRANGEWAYS HERE WE COME film review
The residents of a council estate conspire to murder the moneylender they're collectively in debt to.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Chris Green

Starring: Michelle Keegan, Elaine Cassidy, Stephen Lord, Chanel Cresswell, Nina Wadia

STRANGEWAYS HERE WE COME film poster

Dabbers at the ready, it’s broken-Britain bingo with writer/director Chris Green’s Strangeways Here We Come. Abandoned supermarket trolleys, fit to bursting carrier bags, potentially libellous graffiti about some mush called Barry: (council) HOUSE! The picaresque opening of this ‘black comedy’ has all the usual signifiers of wrong side of the tracks Blighty as it introduces us to the denizens of a Salford high rise estate. And they’re all mad, they really are. Shagging each other, on drugs, beating up the postman for bringing them bills. What a bunch! Dazed and trying to carry on with his deliveries, the postman then gets a heavy looking bag dropped upon his head from a great height, as a rough looking mum announces, "and the rest of your toys will end up the same way if I catch you smoking that shit again." Ahahaha! A kid still young enough to play with toys is on the puff! The underclass really are hilarious.

STRANGEWAYS HERE WE COME film review

This sort of carry on continues for most of the film, until a plot appears at just over the half way mark of this 90-minute so-so social satire. Three quarters of an hour in we are introduced to Stephen Lord’s dodgy loan shark, who seemingly has most of the residents in hock. There’s a smelly looking couple who owe him money and so have turned to cooking meth, a group of attractive female students who are forced to appear in home-made pornography in lieu of paying back the cash they don’t have, and a single mum who also has to shag him because she can’t afford her instalments either. Surely all of this unpleasant, exhausting criminality and rape can’t be easier than actually, you know, getting a job? Nah. The concept is scoffed at, with the only character seemingly in gainful employment played for laughs: the postman, who is shot in the eye by an air rifle. Hahahah, what a fucking square, eh?

STRANGEWAYS HERE WE COME film review

Look, having lived on a council estate for a significant amount of time, this sort of thing just irks me. Vile stereotypes of people at the tough end of the social scale, disdainful representations seemingly designed to comfort and entertain those fortunate enough to never have to go near social housing. From the glib victim fetishisation of Ken Loach fare, to the laughing-up-their-sleeves at us grotesques of Little Britain, chav culture is played for either pity or laughs. It’s only a unique film like the wonderful This is England (the film, not the defeatist, miserable series) which accurately captures this social class, presenting rounded people rather than hysterical cartoon characters. Incongruously, Strangeways Here We Come even embeds some Ska-ish music on its soundtrack, as if hoping to leech some of the joy from Shane Meadows’ masterpiece. Soap opera would be a more appropriate comparison though, with the eventual narrative centring on the bumping off of a baddy and the ensuing vagaries of body disposal, which is a previous plotline of both Brookside and Coronation Street. The correlation is furthered by the film’s cast being made up of various faces familiar to tea-time telly, with the pulchritudinous Michelle Keegan (Coronation Street) central to the movie’s marketing. In this film, following her role as Tina McIntyre (a much beloved character), this ex-beauty of the cobbles, this Mancunian reincarnation of Bardot, twice intones the phrase, "he made me suck off a tramp." Then the postman gets raped by a woman who has been drugged against her will. Lol?

STRANGEWAYS HERE WE COME film review

As well as being annoying, Strangeways Here We Come just isn’t very good either. There is the narrative potential here for a great film, one based upon loyalty, secrets, guilt, and the beautiful bonds forged by a side swept community who have been forced into desperate measures. Could there be a probing subtext offered by the way in which the characters persistently aspire towards images received from American pop culture: the Breaking Bad quoting would-be meth dealer, the div wandering around in a superhero costume, the wannabe gangsta? Any suspected sophistication, however, is rendered accidental by the crude design of the dialogue: "I’d bum you inside out," "If you died I’d bum your corpse," or, simply, "I’d bum you." Towards the end, as the film runs out of ideas, the postman has his big bag of letters emptied over his head.

Strangeways Here We Come is in UK cinemas October 5th.


2018 movie reviews

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