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Guys and girls go to war in this twisty and cynical battle of the sexes from black British writer-director-actor Leon Herbert
Four years hard graft brought black filmmaker and actor Leon Herbert's film to a British cinema scene otherwise dominated by whites. But this worthy hype can't disguise that, on viewing, Emotional Backgammon> falters towards a ludicrous ending.
Sparring between boyfriends and girlfriends isn't a new subject, but Herbert's cast and funky London setting make his battle of the sexes start out enjoyably. However, as it examines the way we become jaded by insecurities and bad relationships, the film descends into unimaginative stereotypes: men playing it cool, women playing at seduction.
Cynical as the subject matter is, it's hard not to notice most of the venom is directed towards the women ("bitches"). And when it takes an unbelievable twist towards the end, it's hard to believe the film ever had a grip on realistic people or, for that matter, emotions.
Early on, Herbert hit on the way in which people's advice is coloured by their own experiences and bitterness, dispatching tips as a way of absolving themselves while selfishly controlling the actions of others. It's a shame that this thoughtful aspect is undermined by apparent misogyny and the need to place shock value in the film's conclusion.
What starts out like a British Two Can Play At That Game ends up an unbelievable psychodrama. While it's a relief to see that black British filmmakers actually exist, and Herbert's dedication is admirable, Emotional Backgammon won't be the film to put them on the map.
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On Film4: 02 April 2015