Dir/scr: Richard Jobson.UK. 2004. 85mins
There are some areas of the international market in whichBritish cinema cannot reasonably expect to compete. A meaty, martial artsthriller might be one of them. That hasn't stopped ambitious writer-directordirector Richard Jobson making a plucky attempt to create his own pulpyScottish version of a Hong Kong action movie.
Hampered by a derivativescript, colourless characters and a low budget, The Purifiers merelyproves what a foolhardy endeavour he has embarked upon. A bold attempt at acommercial, mainstream feature after his acclaimed arthouse debut 16 YearsOf Alcohol, this can only wither and die when faced with the competition ofthe marketplace. Even a cult niche seems unlikely. The film had its world premiereat Edinburgh after market screenings in Cannes.
If the heartfelt,autobiographical 16 Years Of Alcohol openly acknowledged a debt tofilmmakers like Wong Kar Wai and Terence Davies then The Purifiersreveals the influence of John Woo, Bruce Lee and most especially Walter Hill's1979 classic The Warriors.
Set in a futuristic innercity Britain where law and order are maintained by organised gangs of karateclub enthusiasts, the film follows an all too obvious story arc of turf wars,betrayal from the enemy within and the dastardly machinations of a power-hungryleader called Moses (McKidd). A self-proclaimed saviour of the dispossessed, itis Moses' offer of a truce that brings the idealistic John (Alexander) and ThePurifiers out of their home territory and leaves them dangerously exposedwhen his terms are refused.
After that, it's a simplerace for survival with the bursts of sadistic violence in unlikely locations (aChinese restaurant, a gloomy ice rink) a welcome respite from the incoherentnarrative.
The Purifiers has the sleek, steely lookof a Jean-Jacques Beineix or Luc Besson film of the 1980s but it struggles forcredibility as characters scurry around cramped underground locations inGlasgow or frequently land in conveniently positioned piles of cardboard boxesduring the fight scenes.
The balletic martial artssequences are the highlight of the film but can't compete with the beautifullychoreographed poetry in motion approach that has became a John Woo trademark.
Jobson's penchant for thepoetic in his writing worked to the advantage of 16 Years Of Alcohol butfeels pretentious in The Purifiers. His assured visual touch andconfidence suggest he might be a much more effective director when working fromsomeone else's screenplay.
The leaden dialogue here provokes sniggers ofderision and whilst most of the actors seem wooden, the usually reliable McKiddgives an uncharacteristically hammy performance, veering between hissingwhispers and snarling rants as he desperately tries to inject some life intothe underwritten Machiavellian schemer Moses. Sadly, if Moses supposes thisshow is all roses then Moses supposes erroneously.
Prod cos: Vestry Films, Bill Kenwright Films, First Choice
Int'l sales: Park Entertainment
Exec prod: Su Lim
Prods: Chris Atkins, RichardJobson, Bill Kenwright
Cine: John Rhodes
Ed: Yannis Sakaridis
Music: ArbanOrnelas, Steven Severin, Vincent Watts
Main cast: Kevin McKidd, Gordon Alexander, Dominic Monaghan, Amber Sainsbury,Rachel Grant