Blackly comical writing and direction add a playful slant to what could have been a typically over-serious British crime thriller. And there's also a coming-of-age element to the plot that holds our interest. It's all relatively simplistic, and never really goes anywhere, but the offbeat approach and vividly well-played characters make it worth a look.
Rising-star Brit Jack O'Connell (Skins) plays 19-year-old Adam, a goof-off who thinks it's hilarious when he wrecks his stepdad Peter's (Mullan) pricey car. But Peter is a mobster, and his patience is wearing thin. Without telling Adam's mother (Wareing), he gives Adam a job to help pay for the damage. He'll be a driver for Roy (Roth), who turns out to be a hitman on a nasty mission. This opens Adam up to a world he has never known, and as the stakes begin to rise he has to grow up very quickly. Then things get even more intense when he and Roy encounter a backpacker (Riley) who sends them on a crazed cat-and-mouse chase.
Mixing comedy with suspense isn't easy to pull off, but writer Wrathall and director Viveiros manage it by keeping the humour pitch black and playing everything dead straight. O'Connell portrays Adam as a hapless buffoon who has no idea how to behave in any given situation. But he's deeply likeable, so we root for him in the face of Roy's stony silence. Roth can play this kind of thug in his sleep, but stirs in some wry exasperation and even a low-lying emotional resonance as things develop. And the chemistry between them never feels remotely safe.
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Similarly, 1998's Killing Time is a cosmic fluke.
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