BRAKE

Brake

 

Starring Stephen Dorff as kidnapped secret service agent Jeremy Reins this fast paced and claustrophobic thriller is above standard fare even if it does try a little too hard to outguess its audience. On screen alone for most of its ninety minute duration Dorff gives a convincing and coherent performance which never lets the tension levels drop. Despite this so acclimatised to this sort of drama involving terrorists, their multiple plot twists and red herrings that audiences are becoming less trustful than the characters at the centre of all the carefully orchestrated dramatic devices. I had the plot sussed within the first ten minutes and even the last twist at the films denouement –preceded by tacky happy ending- was pretty obvious from the outset.

The drama unfolds around Reins awaking to find himself encased in a glass box in the trunk of a car. Unsure of why he is there he finds himself in radio contact with a fellow service man who is one of several in the same predicament as him. Following this he speaks to his captor- a terrorist- who wants to know where the Presidents bunker is situated. To add to his predicament his wife is also being held hostage and as the car speeds to an unknown destination it is clear they are going to die if he does not co-operate as he is able to hear car bombs going off and it does not take a genius to work out that this is his inevitable fate. Along the way he is able to commandeer the use of a mobile phone- these terrorists seem pretty lax having gone so far to organise such an elaborate scheme- and call the emergency services who embark on a race to rescue him and his wife. To reveal anymore would spoil the fun of guessing how the plot pans out but as stated before I found it all predictable although it is cleverly nuanced.

The claustrophobia of the glass box and trunk are expertly handled by director Gabe Torres and Dorff turns in a high octane performance which is wholly believable. Holes in the plot aside it is a tense and exciting ride and although the conclusion induced a sense of ennui it is still a superior film.

 

 

One Mile Away

The one mile in the title of this fascinating documentary- intercut with a relevant soundtrack by one of its subjects- by Penny Woolcock refers to the short distance between two rival factions of disenfranchised and displaced black youths in Birmingham who seem to be at war mainly because of a difference in postcodes. In fact the difference between the two gangs -The Burgers and the Johnsons- is basically a dual carriageway which separates them and through the realisation of Shabba- a Johnson- that their battle is futile as they share the same grievances but have allowed their ongoing battle to distract from the bigger picture.

His belief is shared by his rival leader Dylan who emerges throughout this portrait as clear, concise and totally understanding of what the real problems are which make these young people fight amongst themselves. Woolcock sets up a summit meeting between the two which is perfectly captured as during the awkward rendezvous the two can barely manage to look in the direction of the other.  Despite initial misgivings-trust is a luxury- from Dylan a thaw in the icy atmosphere emerges and a decision is made to try and elicit some form of resolve between the two factions and sort out the differences so future generations don’t automatically fall into the same patterns of violence and crime.

Initially Shabba’s fellow cohorts stonewall any progress concerning peace measures whilst Dylan, a convincing advocate of their ambitions, manages to convince most of his gang that these measures are well worth investigating and taking on board. It is a tough call and uphill struggle however as this is a group of young men who wear their stab wounds as if they were tattoos. It seems they share a common enemy in the police and Woolcock captures an exchange with the police which, to some extent, bears out why this is.

Obviously trusted by the participants Woolcock gains an insider’s perspective and is present when there are gunshots at a local carnival which indicate that the issues are far from resolved and a lot more coercion and co-operation within and from the two gangs are needed before any real progress can be made.

The soundtrack provided by Urban Monk works perfectly in this environment and articulates some of the issues many of the participants struggle to vocalise in their interviews. Despite the seriousness of the situation there are a couple of moments of unintentional humour most notably when Dylan claims ‘The Burgers haven’t got no beef’ and again when an aspiring young criminal claims that initially he acted hard to impress girlfriends but now realises this is a waste of time as he now changes girlfriends like socks.

Culminating with scenes shot around the time of last summers riots Woolcock is on hand to capture the police harassment her subjects suffered in their wake. She herself even has a run in with the police for aligning herself with the disaffected youngsters

Never dull and always with a keen sense of perspective this documentary takes a serious look at what is wrong within our society and why so many turn to crime not as an alternative but because they feel it is their only solution. At its conclusion no resolve has yet been met but the fact it is at least being discussed shows some regard for the future rather than simply submitting to the downward spiral they are, at present, immersed in.

Sadie Marren

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