Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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Down Terrace (2009)

Keep it all in the family. No literally, everything.

Bill (Robert Hill) and his son, Karl (Robin Hill), have been working together for so long and even though it just so happens to be organized crime, they’ve gotten by for the longest time in it, so they don’t get caught up in all the details. But that all begins to change when, after spending a few days in jail, they return home and realize they may have a rat in their midst. This is clearly not something they want to put up with, which is why they try to get down to the nitty gritty of it all and figure out just who the rat in the whole gang may be, or if there isn’t one, who’s the first who could rat on them in the first place. As they try to pick out the informant from a group that includes a corrupt politician (Mark Kempner), an unpredictable hit man (Michael Smiley), and yes, even the annoyed and pissed-off matriarch, Maggie (Julia Deakin), Karl learns his girlfriend (Kerry Peacock) is pregnant and doesn’t quite know what to do with that, or how the hell his family is even going to react. Needless to say, it’s not pretty.

Oops. Out come the guns.

Down Terrace has essentially one-joke going for itself throughout the whole hour-and-a-half, but it’s such a good joke that co-writer/director Ben Wheatley finds himself constantly playing around and toying with the whole time: It’s that everyone is suspected of being a rat and because of that, they’ve got to meet their maker. Of course, the movie may play-off like a very serious and tense episode of the Sopranos, but what’s interesting about Down Terrace is that, besides it being incredibly dark and morbid at times, it’s also quite funny.

Cause of course, British gangsters can’t be too serious the whole time, right?

And that’s why Down Terrace, while not an altogether perfectly put together movie, is still entertaining and interesting enough to watch, because it’s trying something new and bold. Inside of it, is a combination of the kitchen-sink drama, the suburban crime flick, and of course, the black-as-hell comedy, and while it’s definitely obvious when the movie changes into one mood, it still kind of works. Wheatley knows how to film each and every aspect of this story into a manner where we don’t know what to expect, or know exactly where it’s going to lead into, and just watching him give it a try is where most of the fun is to be had.

This is the part of the movie where the subtitles definitely need to be put on.

He and fellow writer Robin Hill don’t forget to give audiences a little bit of everything, but they truly know how to make their comedy crack and their violence, well, disturb. In fact, it’s maybe a bit too disturbing at times; characters that we come to know, love, and grow very intimate with over a very short amount of time, are all of a sudden killed-off in very heinous, in-your-face ways the next second. It’s as if no one’s safe and those that definitely aren’t, are going to meet a very gruesome end. Which once again, is pretty brave, despite it not always working.

But hey, in the film-world, bravery has to count for something.

And that’s basically where Down Terrace works in the end; it’s probably Wheatley’s most cohesive and simple-to-read picture, but in that, also isn’t his dullest, either. You can tell that he’s working out some of the kinks into how to make this kind of material to work, but when you have a first-timer making so much noise, by combining all of these different subgenres, and making something still work, then yeah, it’s definitely worth the watch. If only to see just where Wheatley himself has come, gone, and where he’s going to be heading-off towards in the very near-future.

Let’s just hope he sticks with more movies such as this, and more away from High-Rise. Sheesh.

Consensus: With a crazy combination of different tones and styles, Ben Wheatley definitely takes a lot on his plate, but handles it well with a very funny, surprising, and altogether interesting hybrid with Down Terrace.

7.5 / 10

Cheers, mates. Get ready to die.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Stand By for Mind Control, New York Times


Sightseers (2013)

Sort of like if Mickey and Mallory went on a road-trip. Well, a different one anyway.

Two lovebirds, Chris and Tina (Steve Oram and Alicia Lowe), decide that it’s time to get away for a little and have some fun. Chris then plans out this whole trip for the two to take, hopefully have fun on, and explore the country-side. Oh, and they might also do some killing as well. Just in case the moment ever arises.

Director Ben Wheatley is starting to become a voice to be heard in the world of movies. Kill List was a shock of a movie that never ceased it’s turning wheels, and still has me wondering about it, even until this very same day. It’s just that type of movie that messes with your mind, long after you’ve seen it, which is why you should definitely go out, find it, and watch it if you haven’t done so already. That said, this movie had a lot of promise by the way this is Wheatley’s second film and shows that the guy loves blending human-relationships, comedy, and horror, altogether in one, neat package. But what you may not notice until checking out the credits, this isn’t written by Wheatley and is instead done by it’s two leading stars. First mistake right there.

Even though Wheatley took some risky and strange steps with Kill List, you still have to give the guy credit for at least going down the roads that he did, and not making any apologies for it. It was always interesting to see where he could go next with his story, and what genre he was going to mess around with when he felt like it. This movie just felt like the same genre, the same joke, the same happenings, the whole way through. There’s nothing really crazy going on here other than the fact that these two lovers are out on their own, little trip of sight-seeing and killing random people. Funny for maybe the first or second time, but after that: it becomes a bore.

Well now we see who wears the pants in that relationship...

Well now we see who wears the pants in that relationship…

However, Oram and Lowe don’t really seem to get the nods right off the bat. They decide to keep on hammering and hammering away with the same joke that these two, ordinary people would actually spend a whole trip going from place-to-place, killing people whenever they saw fit. It gets old, real quick, and feels like the movie is at a lost for ideas. If anything, the movie did make me laugh with it’s monstrous uses of irony, and finding new and original ways to use it here and there, but even that got to be repetitive as well. Nothing new seems to happen, other than what person they are going to kill next and even then you can pin-point how, who, what, where, and when.

Not good for any movie, let alone one of the horror/black comedy-genre.

Honestly, I wish I could go on and on about this movie and say how obvious it got to a certain-point where I just wanted somebody to slap me with a fish and get it over with already, but I’m sort of at a lost for words. Wheatley still shows his love and compassion for making things terribly-uneasy with the audience, whether it’s watching a person be killed, or the thought of someone being killed. But then that idea starts to get skewered as you begin to see these characters taking out all of their rage and frustration out on people who seem to sort of deserve it. Not saying any person deserves to die for saying or doing something that may not be the nicest-gesture in the whole, entire world, but if Wheatley really wanted to ruffle some feathers, he would have gone for the jugular and given us victims that were the least-bit sympathetic. Everybody here just seem like mean people that had it coming to them some time soon. Not my thoughts. Apparently it’s the movies. Just by the looks of it.

Then, of course, there’s the two leading-peoples themselves: Steve Oram and Alicia Lowe. Since this is THEIR script, aka, their bread and butter, it only feels right that they make it work to the best of each of their abilities, which it does. Oram is funny as Chris, the sort of dude that seems all cool, calm, and relatively-charming on the outside, but very deep, dark, and sinister on the in. The dude never seems like a bad-enough guy to really go full-throttle with all of these murderous-acts of violence, but at least he has fun with it. Low also has fun with her role as Tina, for the sole-sake that she’s just a nut, and is marveling it. She gets to do some pretty strange-o stuff, and pulls it off well, even when it seems like this girl is too nutty to be taken seriously. But then again, you never know what is real, and what isn’t real with this movie. Wheatley leaves it all up to the viewer and I appreciated that aspect, just not the whole film.

Now THAT'S love.

Now that’s love.

Together, Oram and Lowe are good as it seems as if they’ve been best-buddies/eff-buddies for a long time now, as the chemistry between them is natural. They’re weird, odd, and very scary in the ways that they could do anything they wanted, whenever they wanted, but I wanted more from these characters. For the most part, I never felt like I knew any of them, other than the fact that they just liked to act weird and kill people. That was basically it. It never seems like the movie itself was ever keen on taking them seriously enough, to ever give them any real personalities, with real feelings, real emotions, and real ideas in their heads. I know killing people is a real idea, but I didn’t feel like I was watching real people, thinking about a real idea. They seemed more like they were destined for the big-screen. No surprise that that’s exactly where they ended-up.

Consensus: Wheatley still shows his attention to detail, but working on a script that wasn’t made by him, makes Sightseers feel like a bit of a disappointment considering it’s the same, old joke; again and again with new spins on it every once and awhile, but not enough to fully have me in a daze of fun and disbelief.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

Yup, they did that too.

Yup, they did that too.

Kill List (2012)

Just don’t kill people. End of story.

Two British pals, Jay (Neil Maskell) and Gal (Michael Smiley), meet-up and decided that they both need something to do, need some money, and need to get their hands a bit dirty because they can’t handle being away from guns, weapons, and violence for too long. They decide to take a couple off odd-jobs going around and killing certain people, but some of it gets skewered as time goes along. There’s certain complications and confusions that come to base and that’s when all hell breaks loose, for both their personal and professional lives.

It may be hard to say this without most of you already having done the task of seeing this by now, but if you haven’t seen the movie, just know this: know absolutely nothing about this movie going in. For the rest of this review, I’m going to try and be as damnably vague and strange as possible, but just remember that it’s all for you peeps out there. You should all be grateful you have a nice guy like me, writing the movie reviews that I do.

What makes this movie so different and so original in it’s way, is that it isn’t exactly what you expect it to be. Is it a thriller about two dudes going around a hacking-off people? Sort of. Is it a human-drama about two guys who have problems in their life, and need to get by them all, simply by taking hit-man jobs? Sort of. Is it a horror movie that has something weird under-lining everything else? Once again, I say sort of. It’s one of those movies that isn’t one thing, and instead, plays it’s wild-card and just goes all over the boat, but in a good way, mind you.

Whatever you do, never get stuck in dimly-lit tunnels.

Whatever you do, never get stuck in dimly-lit tunnels.

Writer/director Bean Wheatley seems like a very skilled dude in terms of how good he is at actually being able to make all of these changes and combinations of genre’s and moods. First of all, the mood throughout the whole film is consistent. And even dare I say it, probably the most consistent thing about it. You never know exactly what the fuck is going with these characters, their issues, and what exactly is bringing them to do the bad and terrible shit that they do decide to do, but you know it’s something eerie. You know there’s a bolt or two loose in one of their heads, and wondering when the next person is going to snap and let it all out, is what will really keep you on-edge.

But it’s not even just the characters that really get you freaked-out by how strange they can be; it’s just the whole story itself. As soon as you find out that something is awry with their plans and that these guys can’t get their blood-money right away, you automatically know that not everything is what it seems. Even the people that these characters meet and have conversations with on a daily-basis aren’t the type of people you think or believe in that you can trust. You know that there’s something “up” about them, and therefore, you’re further and further left in the dust of what’s actually going on, what these characters are thinking right now at the certain moment, and most importantly, what the hell is going to happen next.

The idea that you have no clue in your right mind of what’s going to happen next, how, when, and where, is the type of steam this movie continues to build-on. As that mysteries continues, you’re idea of suspense gets more and more hyped-up and once that ending comes, you have no idea what to make of the story you just saw. Once again, I’m going to go into this next part with as much vagueness as I can, but just be warned: I may set-off a couple of fire alarms. Just be ready.

By the time the ending hits, I honestly had no idea what the fuck just happened. I sat, I thought, I read the paper, I checked my e-mail, watch some YouTube videos, and then decided to write this review. I though to myself, “What the hell does all of this strange shit mean, and exactly why has it happened to these characters?” I continued to think and I just gave up and realized that it was just one way for Wheatley to mess with us even more. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t in any way, shape, or form, think what happens in the end is a pigment of one of these dude’s imaginations, but something didn’t feel right to yours truly.

Now THAT'S a true friendship.

Now THAT’S a true friendship.

Was it scary? Hell yeah! Was it shocking? You bet your ass! Will I ever forget it again? SADLY, no. The fact that the ending is freaky and fucks with your mind more than the rest of the film preceding it, is a credit to Wheatley’s direction and the way he is able to set everything up. However, something just didn’t touch me in the right way where I felt like this was the way the story needed to end. It’s a slightly-bit too over-the-top, too crazy, and a bit too ridiculous. There’s a couple of hints and clues as to why this ending would seem the least-bit plausible, but once I got thinking about it and actually realized what I just saw; the lines didn’t connect. By all means, give it a look yourself and come up with your own conclusions, but just don’t expect it to all make sense. Especially after the first time. Or even maybe after the second, and maybe the third. But after that, you may come up to your own ideas, and also may have to call a psychiatrist.

Thankfully, though, the characters are at least well-written and more than well-acted to make up for these slight, but noticeable hiccups in the story. Neil Maskell and Michael Smiley are both good as the two best-friends who hang out and kill people for money and sometimes fun, but it’s strange because their characters are so different in many ways. Maskell’s is a total fire-ball that needs to be acting violent in one way or another, and even though he obviously loves his wife and kid, he still can’t help to be mad and angry at them for one thing, and then another, and then another, and then another. Whereas Smiley’s character is all cool, calm, collective, and very funny in the way that he just goes about life with a smile on his face and without an ounce of worry in the world. Both of them do get into fights, and heck, even brawls every once in awhile as well, but they still love each other and at the center of all this insane and crazy shite going on; they are still there to talk, to hang-out, and appreciate each other’s company as much as they beat the shit out of each other, too.

Consensus: Kill List is one of those movies that is weird, strange, mysterious, and always chilling in the way it’s plot moves and how everything happens, but something doesn’t quite feel right by the end where all of a sudden shit goes crazy, without much reason or rhyme. Still jaw-dropping to watch, but you may be scratching your head a bit too much after it’s all said and done.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Don't worry, just watch it and you'll get it. Maybe.

Don’t worry, just watch it and you’ll get it. Maybe.

If you guys could also check out the extra page I have up top, that would be extra cool beans. Thanks!