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By midlandsmovies, Oct 21 2019 10:45AM



Number 23


Directed by Jack Veasey


2019


Three hooded people are paraded into a field by armed captors in an exciting opening to new action drama Number 23 from Midlands director Jack Veasey.


A Western-inspired steel guitar soundtrack plays as one of them is callously shot and the two survivors (Andre Pierre and Becki Lloyd) are told by Dr. James Fisher (an intimidating Jason Segade) that they are now simply numbered slaves before being taken into a makeshift cell alongside other captives.


Then a white supremacist in the prison stokes a violent encounter with two black prisoners and Veasey throws us into a brutal but haphazard fight.


Although slightly underlit in these prison scenes, the director does however try to create a great mood of secrecy with dark corners and harsh shadows. Then a classic action-flick monologue is delivered to fill in the story blanks about a war which segregated the population.


A line of dialogue about “an army of superhumans” garnered a bit of a guffaw from this reviewer but the film sticks to and delivers its 80s-influenced action beats. Inmate Number 23 (Pierre) is pulled from his incarceration and is injected with an unknown serum that our villain hopes to give him ‘supernatural’ powers.


Later, as a military drum march plays, all the captives are brought back outside as a brutal henchmen (Dominic Thompson) berates them, ensuring their life is as hard as possible. But the group put their differences aside and plan to escape their predicament before it gets worse for all of them.


Overpowering their guards, the film moves into a gun-filled conclusion with some decent practical effects, more hand-to-hand combat and some bloody punch-ups.


Andre-Pierre as the eponymous Number 23 is great and the two dark performances from Segade and Thompson are a fun over-the-top portrayal of the classic central villain and henchman dynamic.


The film seemed mostly influenced by a similar societal breakdown as seen in Children of Men and Veasey has definitely brought some decent action chops to his range of filmmaking talents. And although the slightly silly human experiment storyline was a bit clichéd, overall Number 23 is a satisfying mix of grounded sci-fi and action with a tiny dollop of more serious race-relations themes. Recommended.


Michael Sales


By midlandsmovies, Sep 15 2018 04:28PM



Midlands Review - The Night They Crashed Here


Directed by Jack Veasey


“It was just another normal day” proclaims a voice at the start of new sci-fi drama The Night They Crashed Here, but this new short from Jack Veasey moves very quickly away from any sense of “normal” to much more sinister themes.


Filmed in early 2018 around Coventry and from the director of Tony, George Wills stars as Paul Jones who introduces himself via a Bogart-like voiceover. However his interviews are the product of his press reporter credentials rather than those of a private detective. The film is entirely shot in black and white and along with the voiceover, the noir influences can be seen from the start including the brick wall motifs and the low-key lighting.


As Jones exits his vehicle after a particularly strong storm, he stands against a cloudy sky and as great tension building noise reaches a crescendo he witnesses strange lightning which bolts to the earth. This eerie phenomenon is excellently realised and the filmmaker’s insistence on holding on the shot an agonisingly long time was just perfect to keep the viewer on edge.


The inventive and creative special effects compliment the very well-lit locations and the film echoes Sin City at times - but here the director has achieved his look without green screen. And the stark contrasting lighting lets the shadows do a lot of the work to create a sense of mystery and intrigue. As Jones arrives at the landing site, he spies a mysterious pod in the rubble and removes a strange device which appears to infect him when the deceased alien arm originally holding it shocks it back into life.


About half way through the music changes to a slightly odd glockenspiel style ditty which although evoked the Raymond Chandler-based flicks of the 40s seemed at odds with the sci-fi direction of the plot. Although no doubt intentional this clash between the old and new became a bit of a concern throughout.


The voice from Jones is sadly a little monotone too and could have used a bit more energy or verve in the delivery of the dialogue. The importance of one line is no different to any other which was unfortunately a little bland. Very soon after, a couple of fellow reporters arrive (Andre Pierre as Smith and Becki Lloyd as Williams) and they discuss the dead body. With the possibility of a high-paying scoop about an extra-terrestrial, they plan to claim the discovery as their own. Which will be to the detriment of Jones who they need out the way.


When Jones is approached from behind by Smith, he lashes out in surprise and we start to get hints that he may be succumbing to an alien infection as his ears bleed and his emotions drain. The tale twists again as another morally ambiguous deal is suggested between Smith and Jones to get rid of Williams. And whilst Smith plays a con on both sides to cover his intentions, Jones is hiding a lot more from them both.


The music changes once more at the film’s end – echoing a melodramatic silent film score of sorts – and the short again hints to its retro influences. Like a good noir, there are double crosses and dark realisations that materialise towards it conclusion. And on a technical level, the film uses noir traits like unbalanced compositions, dramatic shadows and skewed shots as well as, literally, an ‘alienated’ protagonist.


In conclusion, looking back with its music and style but forward with its fantastic effects and sci-fi approach, The Night They Crashed Here is an interesting experiment to mix two unlikely genres. And whilst not always delivering the cohesion needed to blend old and new influences, has enough going for it to make it an inventive hardboiled slice of noir and science fiction.


Mike Sales


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