Dir/scr. Richard Jobson, UK, 2008, 98mins.
Set mostly at night around the tough edges of Edinburgh’s comfortable New Town, Richard Jobson’s genre chase film is a rough and ready Scottish riff on Lola Rennt, aimed at a young crowd, which may well respond enthusiastically - at least locally.
What New Town Killers lacks in visual or narrative innovation it makes up for with a punkish energy and some interesting social observations which hook in the viewer even as the plotline clunks along in a familiar manner. Designed also as a video game, which is pretty evident, New Town Killers could well attract a Scottish/UK following with the right campaign, but crossing over into international waters will be more difficult.
Initially, Jobson’s jarring style and awkward pacing don’t seem to hold out much hope, but the film does settle into itself quite quickly. On first sight, Sean (Pearson) would seem to be a hopeless case: parentless, he lives on a housing estate with his older sister Alice (White), who is being forced to work as a drugs mule to pay off the debts she has racked up to finance her party lifestyle. Sean, who roams and races around the city at night with his friend Sam (Mnene), is working as a washroom attendant when he is manoeuvred by the almost cartoonishly-sinister Alastair (Scott) into taking part in a ‘game’. If he can avoid capture by Alastair and his crony Jamie (Mackenzie) until 9am the following morning, he will collect enough money to save Alice.
There’s much enjoyment to be had watching Dougray Scott attacking his hedge fund banker villain - how of-the-moment - but film’s greatest find is James Anthony Pearson (Control) as the fast-moving and -thinking council block lad drawn into his web. This is a believable performance in challenging circumstances (the low-budget nature of the film coupled with the physical demands of the role) for the young Scottish actor.
In fact, throughout New Town Killers, it’s the characters and their social milieu that fascinates as opposed to the chase itself, which feels too close to a video game to involve, and visually New Town Killers does not stand out. But every time the film moves back to Sam, Alice, or even the demonic Alastair, the viewer is hooked afresh.
Overall, Jobson would seem to have set out to make an efficient genre film within a limited budget and he has succeeded in those ambitions.
The Screen East Content Investment Fund
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James Anthony Pearson