Dir: Richard Laxton. UK.2006. 99 mins.
Easily pitched as 8Mile with a British sensibility, Life& Lyrics moulds every musical genre clicheknown to humankind into a wearily familiar, entirely predictable tale of rivalrap crews, star-crossed lovers and a dynamic slamming competition finale.Slickly made but bereft of originality, it seems more at ease with theconventional Romeo And Juliet romantic qualities in the story than the grittier elementsof drugs and violence that seem to go with the territory.
The presence of rising starAshley Waters may prompt a flicker of interest at the UK box-office - where Life & Lyrics is released on Sept 29- but this is one venture where the soundtrack is likely to generate morerevenue than the film itself.
Danny (Walters) works in afailing record shop and hangs with a multicultural posse that includes bestfriend Fable (Steward) who is desperately trying to make contact with his whitebirth mother. But Danny's growing attraction to middle-class Carmen (Rose) causestension between the friends. Loyalties are tested even further when it isrevealed that she will be singing for their deadly rivals, The Hard Cash Crew.
Life & Lyrics' main problem lies with a screenplay that treats issues of class,family and identity in such a superficial way that they lack any dramaticweight or emotional resonance. The failings are particularly obvious in some ofthe subplots, especially as Money Man (Regis) of the Hard Cash Crew falls foulof moneylenders and winning the Mic Masters contestbecomes a matter of life and death for him.
We always know that everythingwill be resolved at the final nightclub clash and that once a gun has beenproduced it will have to be shot in anger.
The result is a film withthe feel of episodic television drama or a soap opera. It may also be areflection on director Richard Laxton, a television dramaveteran making his feature debut as an 11th hour substitute for original choiceLexi Alexander(GreenStreet).
The melodramatic ending isalso predictable but does not seem entirely consistent with the lighter,laidback tone that has been adopted in earlier parts of the film.
After an admired debut in Bullet Boy, Ashley Walters confirms hisstar potential in the lead role of Danny. Good looking and charismatic, Waltersbrings real presence and charm to the part of a young DJ too proud to letanyone hear the tracks that he creates. In time-honoured fashion, he is justlike Glenn Miller constantly searching for the sound of his own music.
The supporting cast includesa number of promising performers, notably Steward and Rose, and there is awelcome current of humour that flows through the film, especially during therap sessions.
Cinematographer John Dalygives the film an attractive look, capturing both touristy London and housingestates with a luminous glow. There is a similar lushness to the sound.
UK Film Council
Beyond Films Ltd
David M Thompson