Dir: Andrew Hulme. UK. 2014. 108mins
In many respects Snow In Paradise is just another weary swagger down the mean streets of gangland London. The tried and tested ingredients are all present from dodgy drug deals to sorted geezers speaking in menacing whispers, random acts of appalling violence and clipped, cryptic dialogue with a vaguely Pinteresque rhythm.
Hulme made his name as an editor on such Paul McGuigan films as Gangster No.1 and Lucky Number Slevin and uses his editing skills in Snow In Paradise to juggle time and fraction our perception of events.
Two things lend some interest to Andrew Hulme’s directorial debut; the screen presence of relative newcomer Frederick Schmidt as the troubled central character Dave and Dave’s search for an alternative path to a life of crime. Told with some style, the film will be too mannered and derivative for mainstream audiences and has little out of the ordinary to attract fans of the Danny Dyer school of British gangland mayhem.
Snow In Paradise does provide a great showcase for Frederick Schmidt, previously seen in Starred Up, who has signs of the brooding intensity that could allow him to follow in the footsteps of Jack O’Connell or Tom Hardy. His Dave is a petty criminal in London’s East End being encouraged into the family business by his sinister Uncle Jimmy played by Martin Askew in a far from subtle fashion.
Jimmy is such a pantomime figure that you anticipate his appearances will start to require a puff of smoke and a set of scarlet horns. Unfortunately, Askew is also credited with co-writing the script that is the film’s greatest failings. There seems little consistency in Dave’s character throughout the film as the aftermath of a drug deal forces him to question if this is really the life for him.
Dave’s salvation arrives when he steps into the local mosque and finds a quiet sanctuary. It is the most original element of the story and the one that is least developed. He does return but the film never quite gets to grips with why or what it all means to him or if he has truly discovered some aspects of Islam that appeal.
The prospect of building Dave into some kind of lost soul from an Abel Ferrara movie is one that Snow In Paradise lets slip through its grasp. It could have been more interesting than Dave’s drug-fuelled descent into despair and the way he becomes caught in the crossfire between Jimmy and his more affable rival Micky, entertainingly played by British television veteran David Spinx. There is also an appealing supporting performance from Aymen Hamdouchi as Dave’s best mate Tariq who leaves a strong impression from his relatively modest screen time.
Hulme made his name as an editor on such Paul McGuigan films as Gangster No.1 and Lucky Number Slevin and uses his editing skills in Snow In Paradise to juggle time and fraction our perception of events. It doesn’t really add anything to the experience and feels like an attempt to inject some dynamism into a story that is tired and overly familiar.
Production companies: Ipso Facto Productions, Millbrook Pictures, Back Up Media, Gloucester Place Films
Internationa sales: The Match Factory www.the-match-factory.com
Producer: Christine Alderson
Screenplay: Martin Askew, Andrew Hulme
Cinematograpy: Mark Wolf
Editor: Barry Moen
Production designers: Alexander Walker, Sophia Chowdhury
Music: Kevin Pollard
Main cast: Frederick Schmidt, Aymen Hamdouchi, Martin Askew, Claire-Louise Cordwell