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By midlandsmovies, Jan 17 2019 05:11PM



Backtrace (2018) Dir. Brian A. Miller


An unbelievably low (no?) budget ‘action’ film starring Sylvester Stallone, Backtrace does a great job of setting the standard for what to expect from the most terrible movies of the upcoming year.


With a filming style that can only be described as first-time-student-using-digital-phone-camera, Backtrace is phenomenally appalling from the outset. After Matthew Modine’s bank robber falls foul to a bout of amnesia he is sprung from his facility to help find the whereabouts of the stolen money he’s forgotten the location of using a “special drug”.


Cinematography is non-existent in shaky-cam shots that fail at even the CSI-level of quality and, as always, Stallone’s charisma is the only thing to stop you switching it off. Although I’d advise you take serious consideration in stopping this mess any time you like.


This Variety review somehow describes Backtrace as a workman-like b-movie. No, no, NO! With no style, substance or any flair whatsoever Backtrace seems to aim at the Cobra-crowd but in reality, that movie is Citizen Kane next to this awful amateur effort.


How does Stallone even get involved in films this bad? Sure, Nic Cage has made a ton of straight-to-VOD pish but at least they look like films. So, a January film already laying claim to the worst of 2019?


Well, one positive is that maybe Stallone can better himself by improving on his third place position for Escape Plan 2 on our least favourite films of 2018 list and claim the top spot this year instead. Good luck!


But, with 12 months to go, this film is so bad that Stallone is in with a VERY good chance of being the best of the worst.



Michael Sales


By midlandsmovies, Dec 17 2018 10:36AM

Midlands Movies Worst Films of 2018


There have been a fair amount of disappointments this year – The Endless probably topping that list – but here are my picks for ten of the worst movies released in the UK this year. From terrible CGI flicks to sloppy slashers, some films may be technically worse than others but it was the all-round underwhelming nature of these poor efforts that saw them join this list of dreadfulness.


With some unintentional laughs to be had in a few – Escape Plan 2’s hilarious awfulness would never see it at number one on this list – the majority failed across the board with bad acting, script, F/X, story and more.


If you would like to read more about each shocking movie then there are links to our full reviews under each entry and I’d highly advise you avoid these stinkers - so go watch them at your own peril!



10. Final Score (2018) Dir. Scott Man

“Squeezing in to the tenth spot just as the year ends is this woefully misjudged action film where Dave Bautista goes to watch a West Ham football game before joining forces with a steward to take down a group terrorists who have infiltrated the stadium. What??? With a tone that mixes Die Hard with UK soap opera Eastenders, you would think that making a film with that premise would be an incredible mistake. And you know what? You’d be absolutely right. A bike chase across the stadium roof is one of many hilariously misjudged action sequences and it’s a shame this won’t be the first time we see Bautista on this list. This stupid soccer film never kicks off and from its awful script to its clichéd narrative, I couldn’t wait for the final whistle to blow”.



9. The Meg (2018) Dir. Jon Turteltaub

“More monstrous-sized nonsense in this actioner starring everyone’s favourite knees-up-muvva-brown geezer Jason Statham. Here he is a retired and disgraced diver whose skills are needed when he returns to investigate an ocean anomaly and as quick as you like he’s involved in a sub-Deep Blue Sea monster movie with awful CGI and atrocious acting. Films that hope to be ironic b-movies tend not to work unless you go “full pastiche”. So, The Meg’s hammy performances and plastic special effects are not ironically bad, they’re just bad”. Click here for full review




8. Truth or Dare (2018) Dir. Jeff Wadlow

Blumhouse's Truth or Dare? I guess once you have a successful reputation you can slap your name in front of any old trash like Tarantino does at his worst and expect the brand recognition to get bums on seats alone. Here a group of adolescents will die if they fail to share a truth or complete a dare with supernatural origins. A convoluted set of rules confuses what could have been a freaky slasher and the actors are given clichéd characters which they are unable to do much with. I’m not sure why I was surprised to find out the real truth. And what is that truth? It’s utter rubbish”. Click here for full review




7. The Titan (2018) Dir. Lennart Ruff

“Sam Worthington (Avatar) becomes another human-alien hybrid as a pilot who joins an experimental programme to settle the human race on Saturn’s moon Titan. Part Frankenstein, part Splice and a whole dose of The Island of Dr. Moreau quality (i.e. none) the film’s slow pace leads it down to the inevitable test results – it’s simply deathly boring. The admittedly interesting concept is neither explored fully as a scientific drama nor silly enough for its probably more suitable b-movie thrills. An unsatisfying ordeal of titanic proportions”. Click here for full review




6. Death Wish (2018) Dir. Eli Roth

“A remake of the Charles Bronson 1974 revenge flick, Willis plays surgeon Paul Kersey who takes the law into his own hands after a home invasion sees his wife killed and his daughter end up in a coma. But Death Wish is a ham-fisted and low-quality attempt to pull ideas together. A waste of time that is perhaps trying to tap into the Taken crowd, Death Wish has a scene where a man actually gets hit on the head by a bowling ball which is a fine metaphor for this poor film itself”. Click here for full review



5. The Strangers: Prey at Night (2018) Dir. Johannes Roberts

“Any positives the first film had are completely absent here in this belated sequel set ten years later where a family are terrorised at a mobile home park by masked assailants. I know it’s not high art but come on. If it’s supposed to be a homage/satire of slasher then it’s 20 years too late anyway whilst the kills are uninspiring, motivations non-existent and only Christina Hendricks seems to be aware of the trash she’s in. Half way through I was ‘praying’ for a better movie”. Click here for full review



4. Winchester (2018) Dir. Michael and Peter Spierig

“Helen Mirren stars as heiress Sarah Winchester - the lady of the house who is haunted by spirits in her turn of the century mansion. Along for the (dull) ride is Jason Clarke but don’t expect the slow build up needed for these kind of films. Quiet, quiet, quiet then BOOM, a pale looking ghost appears. If that's your thing then fill your boots but for the rest of us that technique is lifeless and predictable. A lack of true shocks, a boring narrative and scene after scene of dull exposition, not even the talented actors can raise this flop from the dead”. Click here for full review



3. Escape Plan 2: Hades (2018) Dir. Steven C. Miller

"Sylvester Stallone is back in prison again in an unbelievably bad (and unintentionally hilarious) mish mash of dull action, bad acting and sci-fi! Yes, sci-fi. The plot sees his colleague Shu Ren (Huang Xiaoming) end up in a prison that is more Tron: Legacy and Running Man than it is a modern prison. Neon lights, smoky corridors and laser doors (!) replace any sense of even a semblance of reality and by the mid-way mark I half thought the ending would reveal them to be in space. The sets are small, badly lit and cheap looking and the lighting is abysmal. “It’s bad to be back”, Sly says in an action one-liner which means nothing – yet summing up this film to perfection". Click here for full review



2. The Hurricane Heist (2018) Rob Cohen

"From the director of such “classics” as XXX (2002), Stealth (2005) and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008) comes this inane action romp where a bunch of criminals plan a bank heist around the impending arrival of a Force 5 hurricane. There’s so little to recommend in a film with such a ludicrous premise as this and it’s not only a no-brainer in all senses of the word, the film is unsurprisingly a no-entertainment zone too. So, batten down the hatches and ensure you are safely hidden away until this monstrous disaster has passed you by”. Click here for full review



1. The Predator (2018) Dir. Shane Black

“Wow! Just wow! To have seen The Predator is truly to have witnessed a tragedy. The film takes anything remotely enjoyable from the series and throws it in the bin and with sets seemingly made of cheap plastic, the film has all the cinematic gloss of a jungle grub. Black’s talent for witty scripting is nowhere to be seen as “yo momma” quips and Tourette syndrome expletives pepper the awful, no woeful, dialogue. Whatever this film set out to achieve it fails across every single one of them. The Predator is a dumb, badly-written and awfully constructed mess of a film whose one saving grace is that it makes all other Predator films seem better by its very existence. It’s almost beyond comprehension how any of this even passed the brainstorming phase and with a low box office take we can only hope no further sequels are in the works anytime soon”. Click here for full review


Mike Sales


By midlandsmovies, Dec 17 2018 10:12AM



The Predator (2018) Dir. Shane Black


Wow! Just wow! To have seen The Predator is truly to have witnessed a tragedy. Why may you ask? Well, I’ve been reviewing films on and off for 10 years now and this movie left me flabbergasted in a way very few have.


The 4th instalment of The Predator series (discounting the AvP films), the film sees one of the original film’s stars and now noted director Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Iron Man 3 and The Nice Guys) return to the sci-fi stylings launched by Schwarzenegger and co back in 1987.


One of the flaws of the first Predator film was the late insertion of a Predator spaceship heading to Earth in the opening. Without this scene the glorious alien reveal half way through the movie would have been even more impactful.


So how does The Predator open? Well, much like the rest of the film it takes anything remotely enjoyable from the series and throws it in the bin with a poorly-rendered CGI spaceship crashing on our planet. Immediately The Predator – whose main skill in the previous films is its infamous cloaking device – is shown on screen in a gun fight with a group of soldiers. No mystery. No intrigue. Poor action. Here we go.


And you know what was missing from the classic 80s action film original? Well, you may not have known it, but what you were really clamouring for was a child star and some scenes of a school chess club.


Tackling autism so inappropriately not even the likeable young actor Jacob Tremblay can do anything with a script and characters that are so clunky, underdeveloped and clichéd. Characters may be too generous a term however and whilst the boy ends up with Predator armour that his military dad (Boyd Holbrook as Quinn McKenna) has mailed to him, the Predator has since been captured ready to be tested on in a lab.


And what a lab! Imagine if you will Dr. Evil’s lair from Austin Powers as brightly lit as the pure-white scenes from THX1138. Yet with the appearance of Jake Busey (a sly nod to his father’s appearance in 2) and a set seemingly made of cheap plastic, the film begins to have all the cinematic gloss of a jungle grub.


McKenna’s army “hero” ends up joining forces with a set of inept military captives and Black’s talent for witty scripting is nowhere to be seen as “yo momma” quips and Tourette syndrome expletives pepper the awful, no woeful, dialogue.


How could this get any worse? Well, there’s Predator dogs, a larger Predator antagonist (both badly CGI’d as well) and “action” scenes set amongst the corridors of a high school. Alien vs Predator: Requiem was rightly slated for its dark lighting rendering scenes unwatchable but the TV-level cinematography swings the opposite way here. Over-lit and under-cooked, the film’s focus on children, slapstick bro-dude “comedy” and the inane script gives that film some competition in its awfulness.


Even the little things annoy. A weapon prop so badly designed it looks like the SEGA Menacer video game light gun. A rubbery-suited Predator design from a Las Vegas fancy dress shop. A selection of 90s-level VFX sequences that look like outtakes from The Faculty.


Whatever this film set out to achieve it fails across every single one of them. The Predator is a dumb, badly-written and awfully constructed mess of a film whose one saving grace is that it makes all other Predator films seem better by its very existence. It’s almost beyond comprehension how any of this even passed the brainstorming phase and with a low box office take we can only hope no further sequels are in the works anytime soon.


3/10


Michael Sales


By midlandsmovies, Dec 13 2018 03:28PM



Venom (2018) Dir. Ruben Fleischer


Upgrade (2018) Dir. Leigh Whannell


A two-for-one double review for films that have a two-for-one protagonist as we see Tom Hardy and Tom Hardy-lookalike Logan Marshall-Green both appearing in high-concept action films where they are fused with powers they end up speaking with.


First up, Venom sees Tom Hardy’s roving reporter Eddie Brock get ‘infected’ by an alien symbiote to create a powerful anti-hero who, violently, is trying to do the right thing against Riz Ahmed’s evil scientist. Broad strokes are the name of the game here as we get the superhero origin story with evil genius, concerned ex-girlfriend and transformation scenes so by-the-numbers the plot could have been designed on an abacus. Michelle Williams plays Brock’s girlfriend in a wasted role and the film is astonishing in how it can take three of the best actors working today and give them literally nothing to work with at all.


A selection of so-so action sequences are dotted throughout and the film improves immensely when Venom finally appears as a foul-mouthed monster that argues with his host Brock. But sadly this is far too late in the film and the CGI Venom design is only about 5% better than its 2007 iteration in Spider-Man 3. And, in all honesty, had me wishing I was watching that film at times instead. Sadly the director Fleischer has never been able to recreate that rush of fun and horror from his first film Zombieland, the tone of which is solely needed here in his latest film.


So moving on, earlier this year we also had another action body horror in the form of Upgrade. Logan Marshall-Green, who funnily enough is already in the MCU Spidey-verse with a brief appearance in Spider-Man: Home-Coming, stars as Grey Trace (which sounds a bit like Topher Grace who was Venom in Raimi's three-quel) who after being paralysed in a brutal attack – which also sees his girlfriend killed – is implanted with a bionic chip. This AI called STEM is designed by Elon Musk, no wait, Eron Keen (Harrison Gilbertson) and is surgically inserted into Trace’s body which allows him to regain control of his limbs.


STEM then “speaks” into his mind directly and the two (?) go on a revenge spree to serve justice to those who attacked him. The AI quickly learns vicious fighting techniques and before long, the duo are picking off the assailants. The film however takes its ridiculous premise far too serious at times. In the hands of a sci-fi auteur like Paul Verhoeven Upgrade could have mixed the balance better by giving the whole film a satirical bite. As it is, the fight scenes are fun but sparse and the dramatic sequences dull and bland. With the film spiralling into a confusing high-tech plot, the narrative “discoveries” can be seen from a mile away and frankly any time when the film begins its exploration into society/tech-fears it lost momentum.


So, with Venom’s (frankly unbelievable) $852.7 million box office takings and Upgrade’s innovative but flawed genre goals, somewhere between the two films a good movie may have emerged from the Hardy/Marshall-Green soup. If I was forced to pick I slightly preferred the originality of Upgrade’s idea but with that worldwide gross, I know which flick we’ll be seeing more of in the inevitable sequel which is a shame.


Venom 6/10


Upgrade 6.5/10


Mike Sales


By midlandsmovies, Dec 11 2018 01:04PM



The Night Comes for Us (2018) Dir. Timo Tjahjanto


It would be easy to compare this film to 2011’s The Raid given the two main actors Joe Taslim as and Iko Uwais are major players in both films, yet it’s that film I cannot reference here with its similar mix of Indonesian gangs and corrupt cops fighting for honour and power using the most violent means possible.


And violent it is! Extremely.


When Ito (Taslim) saves a young girl and goes rogue from lethal Triad enforcers the Six Seas, he is immediately hunted down by the gang and thus begins a film that is almost entirely action-orientated throughout. Iko Uwaisis as Arian is called up to kill the traitor and Taslim returns to an old friend’s apartment for refuge.


It’s at this apartment where the best scenes occur. Forced into a tight situation, the character set up is fleshed out before the martial arts kick in and flesh of another kind is strewn around the room. Fantastic brawling action is brilliantly filmed with the character development helping us care about each person’s fate. Arms are blown off, necks are broken and if you don’t like stabbings or gunshots then don’t even think about watching this film. Oceans of blood are spilled and the bone-crunching punches and killings soon leave bodies piling up.


If there was one thing missing, it is that the film quickly ditches its character motivations for more endless fights. As well as they are filmed, the movie needed some space to give the audience the chance to take a breath. It also plays its best hands far too early. The aforementioned early apartment fight is followed by a great battle in a police van but soon repetition kicks in and, like The Raid, once you get down to one-on-one fights, the film all but loses its momentum.


That said, action and martial arts fans will lap up the phenomenal fight choreography and Zack Lee as "White Boy" Bobby is a minor character who steals any scene he is in. Stylish and frenetically chaotic, The Night Comes for Us is not for the queasy but its wild action and furious violence results in an intense experience that you won’t forget in a hurry.


The fight comes to you!


8/10


Mike Sales





By midlandsmovies, Dec 1 2018 06:20PM



Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018) Dir. Christopher McQuarrie


Tom Cruise running and running and running. And sometimes falling. Fallout is the 6th entry in the MI franchise that is becoming more Bond-like with each instalment and like Bond, sees no signs of stopping with its huge box office takings.


Maintaining consistency from previous movie Rogue Nation – star, director and support cast members all returning alongside a continuing narrative – the film sees Cruise and his cohorts tackle another world-ending evil plan with gadgets, vehicles and some implausible action.


One problem with the series is that since Cruise goes “rogue” in almost every film that I’m surprised his character Ethan Hunt is still employed. In this film we have another inconsequential story involving nuclear bombs that is hugely secondary to the stunts and frantic story pace.


Henry Cavill is a new and positive addition showing the likeable acting chops sorely missing from his dour Superman and sneaky Sean Harris returns as Solomon Lane who helps bridge this film with the last.


The film doesn’t quite balance its realistic elements with frankly ludicrous Olympus Has Fallen-style silliness where a stunning real-life helicopter chase sits in the same film as obviously-rendered CGI cars on the streets of Paris. Also making a reappearance are those horrid latex masks that have always stuck in my craw. Clichés abound – a double-agent, a spy called “White Widow”, a new world order villainous plan – and the middle of the film slightly bores with its constant slew of mistaken identities and compromised missions.


But to be fair, it is still a lot of fun. One of the best sequences is a race across London rooftops mixing stunts, laughs and solid action and contains the infamous Cruise ankle-breaking jump between buildings that halted production for weeks.


However, there were just too many little flaws to make this a truly great actioner. A parachute jump had me rolling my eyes when the leads talk about the need to avoid being hit by lightning only to be zapped a second later like a Warner Bros cartoon. But a brutal and brilliant bone-crunching fight in a nightclub bathroom had me wincing in joy – and again reminded me of Bond in Casino Royale’s opening. Speaking of openings though, the film again undermines its own positives by seemingly showing the whole film you’re about to watch in a sequence so unbelievably misjudged I almost fainted.


One part which seemed to have no flaws though was the excellent score from Lorne Balfe. Zimmer-esque at times, Balfe has found some great uses of the classic TV show’s theme mixing emotional subtlety with bombastic blasts when needed.


Easily in the top MI films so far, is the film the Nolan-classic some critics are lauding it? Not even close in this reviewer’s eyes. That said, it’s one of the better summer blockbusters and, dare I say, Cruise’s franchise behemoth is certainly catching up with Bond especially with that franchise currently languishing in development hell.


Better than Rouge Nation (a film I didn’t massively gel with) but for me not quite having the spectacular sequences of Ghost Protocol, it’s probably the best looking film amongst all six and despite some recent missteps (I’m looking at you, The Mummy) the film cements Cruise as the superstar to watch out for each summer season.


7.5/10


Mike Sales



By midlandsmovies, Nov 4 2018 07:46PM

Review - Movie Catch Up Blog 2018 - Part 4




Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018) J. A. Bayona

The fifth film in the dino-giant Jurassic franchise, and boy does it feel like it. In the world of the soft reboot, what we get here is a re-tread of Spielberg’s disappointing sequel where a group of military personnel return to the infested island. As they try to retrieve precious DNA remnants, the animal's eco-system is disrupted by the impending eruption of a volcano which puts the remaining dinosaurs at risk of a second extinction. Why this is a problem remains a mystery as they can surely clone them all again? That was the first film’s point. Chris Pratt moves further from his great Guardians performance and slides into “Blando Hero-man” alongside Bryce Dallas Howard’s retconned footwear-obsessed power female. The film also takes a sharp 180 degree turn at the halfway point and we are soon in a Scooby-Doo esque haunted mansion where – and this is actually the story – a group of rich billionaires are buying and selling dinos in an underground laboratory. WTF? Reminding me of the human trafficking auction in Taken, the film flies off the rails with only a few hints of the skill Bayona showed in his earlier films The Orphanage and A Monster Calls. Boring and dull, Fallen Kingdom is somewhat unbelievably the 12th highest grossing film of all time which means there will most certainly be another - but count me out of this dead-as-a-dodo theme park attraction. 5.5/10




The Meg (2018) Dir. Jon Turteltaub

More monstrous-sized nonsense in this actioner starring everyone’s favourite knees-up-muvva-brown geezer Jason Statham. Back in 2015 for my review of Wild Card I said, and I quote, Statham “often plays the same ex-cop/gangster/trained assassin/cage fighter/thief with violent skills who attempts to go straight, but is pulled in by circumstances beyond his control”. And unsurprisingly here, he is a retired and disgraced diver whose skills are needed when he returns to investigate an ocean anomaly, despite his suspect past and *cough* his attempts to leave his aquatic life behind. As quick as you like he’s back in the saddle, or should that be scuba, and thus begins a sub-Deep Blue Sea monster movie with awful CGI and atrocious acting. Films that hope to be ironic b-movies tend not to work unless you go “full pastiche”. So, The Meg’s hammy performances and plastic special effects are not ironically bad, they’re just bad. Director Turteltaub helmed the fun guilty pleasure National Treasure movies yet this is neither family fun nor satisfying grindhouse splatter-fest. The Meg sadly handles its efforts in both genres terribly badly. Some may find a bit of Saturday night excitement in its glossy shark sequences but for me the film was simply mega disappointing. 4/10




Tag (2018) Dir. Jeff Tomsic

During the end credits of Tag there is real-life camcorder footage of the men who inspired this new American comedy from Jeff Tomsic and it’s indicative of the film’s quality that those few minutes are far more interesting than the preceding 2 hours. Based on the real-life story of a group of grown adults who play a game of “tag” (“it” in the UK) for one month of the year, Ed Helms plays Hoagie who stalks his friends Jon Hamm, Jake Johnson, Hannibal Buress and Isla Fisher. He then convinces the old gang to play one final game before ‘retirement’ by tagging their elusive friend Jeremy Renner who has never been tagged despite years of attempts. With Renner on the verge of marriage, the group try to tag him during his wedding planning but his 'Bourne' skills sees Renner using Hawkeye-style reflexes to avoid their juvenile attacks. A few fine jokes and some rip-roaring editing still cannot overcome the fact that, for me, a documentary on the actual participants – who still play to this very day – is where the true entertainment would lie. With Blockers and Game Night both tackling the “adults playing at kids games” theme as well, Tag sadly doesn’t have anything close to the fun found in those. And with its TV-style filming, a strangely maudlin ending and its one-trick-pony idea Tag is definitely not “it”. 4.5/10




The First Purge (2018) Dir. Gerard McMurray

How did The Purge start? Well, this is the film to answer the question that no one was really asking but as with the other films in the series, this 4th franchise instalment tackles some deeper issues than your regular b-movie thriller. In the mid-21st Century, we are told via news footage that the fascist New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA) are launching an experiment on Staten Island where citizens can commit crime consequence-free for 12 hours. The film follows local drug gangs, a criminal called Skeletor and young anti-purge activists throughout the night as they fight off the expected (and unexpected) participants of The Purge. With a mainly black cast, the film also discusses issues of community, poverty, substance abuse and even has Ku Klux Klan members and black-faced mercenaries. Not just a throwaway action-flick for sure.


In my review of The Purge: Election Year I explained how the “anthology” nature of The Purge series has allowed it to explore more interesting themes than similar low-budget fare, whilst also allowing young up and coming talent to take centre stage amongst its cast. And good turns from Y'lan Noel as Dmitri, Lex Scott Davis as Nya, Joivan Wade as Isaiah, Mugga as Dolores and Christian Robinson as Capital A mean everyone delivers more than fine performances throughout. With “weighty” films like Black Panther, The Post and Black Klansman all tackling lofty themes, it’s great that The Purge gives them all a run for their money with its social commentary alongside b-movie bloodshed. With the authorities trying to stir up hatred with militias, The First Purge (and the others in the series) has used its silly premise to turn a mirror on to the problems currently facing America. And through inventive costume design, handheld camera and a pumping soundtrack, uses its non-mainstream genre to explore the far darker, but no less important, aspects of politics and policymakers. 6.5/10


Michael Sales


By midlandsmovies, Sep 17 2018 08:29AM



Midlands Review - Vigilante Style (2018)


Dir. Edward James Smith


A Pictured Visions Production


Vigilante Style is a new independent feature film written, directed and starring regional filmmaker Edward James Smith. Starting out as a short film all the way back in 2013, the filmmaker developed sequences over many years which eventually became this feature-length production.


The film begins with the “Our Feature Presentation” logo from Tarantino’s Kill Bill and Grindhouse and this ‘Funky Fanfare’ combined with a fast-paced montage a la Guy Ritchie hints where the filmmaker’s influences lie.


It starts by using voiceover as it flashes backwards and forwards in time concerning events from 10 years ago and how they affect the present. Vigilante Gilmer Diamond (Edward James Smith himself) is captured by Alex Steele (Jon Peet) and with revenge on almost everyone’s mind and a wide set of criminal characters, the movie tries to balance multiple story threads in a seedy tale of deception.


However, that is easier said than done. Characters are not fully introduced or fleshed out and the story becomes a mix of confusing tales all explained using expositional dialogue.


And it’s unfortunate as the dialogue is one of the problems here owing to a sound mix that varies so wildly it’s difficult to concentrate on the matters on screen. With amazing HD cameras available, it’s such a shame to see a film with a lot of potential undermine itself with poorly recorded audio. And although the acting verges on being suitably over the top, all the performances are undercut by that poor audio production.


As characters get their comeuppance and gangs cross-paths with each other, we see an increase in violence with fights, shootouts and even a cricket bat making an appearance. Because it was filmed over many years (it was one of our first blogs back in 2014), maybe the filmmaker’s focus changed and so the movie’s broken narrative reflects those altered ambitions.



I enjoyed the Leicester locations of my home town and it was great to see the filmmakers utilise so many varied buildings and streets around the city to keep a variety to the proceedings. Yet filming around the city exacerbates the sound issues with city traffic, background hums and windy alleys all causing their own issues.


Smith throws in a lot of varied techniques in his fast-paced film though. Voice-over, freeze frames and subtitles are added to his guerrilla filmmaking style and the use of chapter titles again show a nod to Tarantino. Yet the good editing is undermined by a lack of cinematography as a huge percentage of the film looks like mobile-phone footage at times.


But in reality it keeps coming back to sound – at times a decent soundtrack is used from artists like Suicide Bees, Blake J. Carpenter and Soul Release – but the dialogue and conversations need much more work. Better mixing and some ADR would go a long way – especially with the voiceover – and improve the viewing experience 10-fold.


Clearly a passion project, it has the vibe and seemingly the budget of a student film and it wears its b-movie credentials proudly on its sleeves. In many respects it seems more like a film that was good fun to make and I admired the passion of a group of friends getting a project together. However, willing friends doing you a lot of favours is one thing, trying to pull it together over a number of years is another.


And so, although it’s all undertaken with a lot of devotion you just have to try and ignore the lack of technical expertise. A number of different quality issues – some sections underlit, others overlit – continue to show a lack of consistency and ultimately it pays the price of its cheap shortcuts.


Maybe it’s a case of running before it can walk. Vigilante Style has flashes of editing and story proficiency but they are drowned out by some sloppiness and that one fatal flaw I keep coming back to – the sound and its design.


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, even with a low budget a filmmaker needs to know what their budget is, and of course the limitations that brings. It’s a badge of honour to say you’ve made a feature film but sometimes the filmmaker is stretching that little bit too far with the resources at hand.


Expanding what I would imagine was an inventive short into a full feature is no easy task and Vigilante Style shows that good intentions can only go so far with a passionate but slapdash approach. More Neil Breen than David Lean, Smith has stretched a short concept to breaking point and only the most hardcore exploitation fans need apply.


Mike Sales


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