The Movie Waffler New Release Review - ACCUSED | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - ACCUSED

Accused review
young man is falsely identified by an online mob as the perpetrator of a terrorist attack.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Philip Barantini

Starring: Chaneil Kular, Jay Johnson, Robbie O'Neill, Frances Tomelty, Nitin Ganatra, Nila Aalia, Lauren Ajuyo

Accused poster

It must be fucking great to be a bigot. Imagine it: being able to blithely blame all of your troubles on a vague idea of a social category different to yours; all of your manifest shortcomings absolved by an abstract group. If it is someone else's fault then it is not yours, after all. Can't get a job? That’s the diversity quota. Struggling with finances? All the money going to the immigrants, innit. Women aren't interested in your clumsy advances? That's THEIR fault, the "femoids." And even if there isn't an act of displacement afoot, then I suppose it must be gratifying to have an enemy, someone to make you feel like a hero, someone to vilify. Someone who will always, always be more vulnerable than you within their societal minority (surely this is the reason for homophobia and trans panic?). Of course, common sense, average intelligence and basic human decency precludes us from such a simple option, but, if we extend our sympathy to those less secure then we may recognise how the thick, the violent and the self-loathing are drawn to dabble.

Or maybe not, because at the actual, disingenuous centre of the bigot is a preening sense of entitlement, of toxic presumptions which are being infuriatingly denied.

Accused review

The cap-fitting villains in Philip Barantini's incendiary Accused (working from an excellent script from Barnaby Boulton and James Cummings) who arrive in the film's third act are tellingly convinced that they are heroes, action heroes nonetheless, righting an observed wrong and all whipped up by their own virulent susceptibility. Flashback to almost a day ago, where we see their innocent target Harri (Chaneil Kular) about to catch the train from London to the surrounding countryside, where he will housesit for his parents and look after their gorgeous Golden Retriever, Flynn. Perhaps his pretty girlfriend Chloe (Lauryn Ajufo) will meet him later: they have a warm, loving relationship, as evidenced by their constant back and forth via social media platforms (an early indicator of Accused's suggestion of social media's centrality to our lives). A good-looking young man of Indian descent, with supportive people around him and a successful career, Harri is the sort of person who already makes the bigots a bit antsy about themselves...

Checking his phone en route, Harri is understandably alarmed to discover that elsewhere on the same line there has been an explosion, which from the looks of it, is linked to terrorist activity. The outcome of having caught a later train doesn't bear thinking about. At his destination, Harri's dad is visibly relieved when he picks him up, and the ensuing evening has a warm glow of relief, yet it is underpinned by the sickly dread which must affect certain British families when the word terrorist characterises the day's news: a gallows humour and withdrawal to deflect the potential coming days of suspicious looks and noxious media commentary.

Accused review

The issue with bigots is that they want to believe the worst, they thrive on it: that is their sickness. Every immigrant IS a potential rapist, all trans-women want to invade YOUR toilets. Don't tell me they don't love it, that they don't look for reasons to righteously hate. These people live for a target. Just ask Mohammed Ramzan. Or, indeed, our own Harri, who, in a flurry of snap verdicts via the moronic mob mentality of social media where he features in the background of a vacuous selfie, is fingered for the attack (we never learn; as I write Twitter is alive with glee, arrogantly guessing who the sex offender comedian a Channel 4 Dispatches programme is about to expose is, as if it's a parlour game and not the real lives and reputations of the names bandied about). After all, Harri is of Asian ethnicity, and he was at the train station, so it must have been him. Hercule Poirot has nothing on this mob. Furthermore, the film's title is a misnomer, as the consensus doesn't allege, but judge, condemn and, when a couple of cowards rock up at the house where Harri spends the night alone (even Chloe has been swayed by the discourse) enact a sentence.

In the last act, Accused accelerates into an anxiety inducing home invasion movie, which calibrates its socio-political rhetoric with severely realised genre pleasures. The two factors are wrenchingly symbiotic and generate some extremely tense filmmaking: the unpleasantly credible realisation of the flag-shagging intruders, who are clumsy, desperate to prove themselves and operate within apparent license granted by pernicious media narratives; versus Harri whom the odds are completely stacked against, as the world at large needs him to be the culprit.

Accused review

Accused is a hard watch; a best it will make you feel deeply uneasy, at worst it will leave you furious. Because nothing in the film (ok, apart from a conveniently disintegrating tree house, which we forgive because by then the film, Harri and the audience have earned it) is completely within the realms of grim plausibility. When it does transpire that Harri is innocent (you know, when the mob have got bored and moved on to vividly cancelling a popstar for a gormless opinion or something), and the actual offender is collared, the optics change depending on his skin tone. The white bomber is a "gentle soul" who was somehow pushed to mass murder by his "mental state," despite premeditated evidence of a hate manifesto. We end with Harri, his beautiful face bruised and beaten, staring into the camera, finally refracting Accused's ambiguous title towards the audience.

Accused is on Netflix from September 22nd.

2023 movie reviews