Domnhall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac and Alicia Vikander star in Alex Garland's directorial debut
Shane Meadows returns with a dark tale of violence and retribution, starring Paddy Considine
Shane Meadows hinted at a darker side with his second feature A Room For Romeo Brass, but he gives full vent to the potentially violent impulses that lurk within all of us with this latest effort, a supremely efficient, brutal, stripped-down work of vigilante cinema. Paddy Considine (who co-wrote the screenplay with Meadows) plays Richard, a taciturn army veteran newly returned to his hometown and on a mission to make a group of low-level criminals pay for abusing his vulnerable younger brother, Anthony (Toby Kebbel), who has unspecified learning difficulties. To these miscreants Richard's name alone elicits a palpable sense of dread, so when he shows up on their doorsteps wearing a gas mask and carrying an axe they go into full-on panic mode.
This is not an Americanised version of Britain, full of hard-nut gangsters pretending to be Goodfellas. The hustlers here are benefit-scammers who live in semi-detached houses, flick through mucky mags, dress badly and flog poor quality gear. They could be the cheeky reprobates from Twentyfourseven grown up, gone bad and forced to pay for being callow human beings unwilling to take responsibility for their actions.
Much of the zing comes from Considine who is restrained yet ferocious, dead-eyed yet soulful, but the film itself is technically audacious. A scene in which Considine terrorises his drugged-up prey is a masterclass in bleary visuals and subjective sound edits. Meadows sharpened up his narrative skills too, to deliver an incredible sucker-punch in the third act that will more than likely leave you reeling.
A fantastic performance from Considine and a darker, yet still distinctive filmmaking style from Shane Meadows make this revenge thriller one of the most surprising movies of the year and certainly Meadows's best effort to date.
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On Channel 4: 20 April 2014