The movie is set in The Elephant and Castle where I, as a 17 year old, went to a strip joint in a well dodgy pub during a visit to London. If I’d have seen this film beforehand I’d not have gone within a mile of the area, never mind into its seedy interior.
Apparently Michael Caine is from “The Elephant” so this was probably quite a nostalgic road trip for him. In the movie he plays a vigilante gradually becoming more and more determined to avenge the brutal murder of his old mate (fast on the heels of his wife’s death) at the hands of a bunch of local scum who terrorise the neighbourhood.
This is no ordinary vigilante movie and, although I haven’t seen it, it must bear considerable comparison to Grand Torino where another fine actor in his latter years dominates a movie.
The casting is wonderful and the thugs that terrify the local community are entirely believable. But from start to finish this is Caine’s movie. He plays his part with massive pathos. We feel deeply sorry for him as, first, his wife and, then, his only chum pass away leaving him quietly tormented and then incredibly angry as he learns that his mates death was mockingly filmed on a mobile phone to the accompaniment of raucous laughter.
The brutality of this movie is searing and really shocking at times. The riot scene is entirely believable, which is difficult to achieve on a low budget but certainly hits the spot. It plays an important central role in undermining the police and showing them off as the useless and uncaring force that director, Daniel Barber is keen to establish .
Two things make this movie a real stand out; Caine and the pacing of the action.
It starts brutally slowly and gradually winds up in pace and tension but never to Hollywood proportions. Don’t forget that Caine is a pensioner! Amazingly it holds your belief throughout – not an inconsiderable achievement in a genre that tends to become overblown and ridiculous.
I expect Michael Caine will get a BAFTA nomination for this (at the very least). He might even win because his performance is stunning. I certainly hope so.
His best performance? Arguably.
A great film? Definitely.