From its opening slow-motion shot of a night club, bathed as it is in ominous shadowy blue and set to a throbbing soundtrack, writer-director Gerard Johnson’s follow-up to serial killer thriller Tony is a bold and uncompromising crime movie that aims to grab the viewer’s attention. And that carries through not just in the ensuing style, consistent in how it accompanies many of its more memorable sequences, but also in the moments of truly shocking and hideous violence which punctuates its familiar corruption and drug-themed plot.
That plot follows Michael (Peter Ferdinando), a police officer and leader of a special (and unorthodox) task force that targets the biggest drug traffickers in London. They are a team that not only bend the rules to get done what needs to be done, but aren’t above skimming some off the top for themselves as long as they catch the big fish in the end. As the team is assigned to take down a couple of ruthless Albanian brothers who are forcefully taking over much of the trafficking in the area, Michael must also deal with the return of a colleague (Stephen Graham) with whom he was once best friends but had a falling out a decade prior.
It’s a British crime film with a difference, plumbing the depths of raw human emotion particularly in its leading character, played excellently by Peter Ferdinando, exploring just not what it takes for a seemingly good person to do certain terrible things but the psychological effect it has on them. It also throws up some interesting moral quandaries for a character so steeped in a criminal world that has taken hold of him in more ways than one, such as when a girl under control of the Albanian brothers needs his help.
Many of the scenes here are very tough to watch indeed, unashamed and uncompromising in its portrayal of its criminal underworld and all that entails. It does slip carelessly into gratuitous and even sleazy on occasion – a rape scene is particularly harrowing and problematic – sometimes giving off the vibe that it’s being shocking just for the sake of it. That sort of thing often hinders the overall effect of the film, getting in the way of certain more interesting subplots, one in particular involving the possible reigniting of a friendship between Michael and David (the always brilliant Stephen Graham) that is glossed over.
Sadly the proclivity for the shock factor takes away from what is otherwise a powerful and supremely atmospheric film. Nonetheless there’s an uncompromising and admirable boldness to it, both in style and what’s shown on-screen, that makes it pretty much impossible not to sit up and take notice.