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Down Terrace

May 11, 2014

Down Terrace (2009)
Director: Ben Wheatley
Actors: Robert Hill, Robin Hill, Julia Deakin

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Synopsis: Father-son pair, Bill (Robert Hill) and Karl (Robin Hill), return from a spell in prison, and slowly start to wheedle out potential informants from their gaggle of cronies….

Review: Down Terrace proved harbinger of the trail Ben Wheatley was set to blaze through low-budget, innovative British cinema over the following few years, as he wrung such rich juice out of the film’s limited industrial canvas and the setting of its drama in pretty much only one location – the claustrophobic terrace house in Brighton that father-son team, Bill and Karl, return to after a spell in prison.

Too often, work of this sort (British/genre/gangster) falls back on time-worn cliché, but Down Terrace is supremely well-acted and written, and offers tangible evidence for a clear concentric, intelligent presence behind the camera. A great air of gallows humour lingers over the whole piece – it really is the darkest of dark comedies – and Wheatley offers a very convincing (and ironic) portrait of the sheer dysfunctionality of this most flawed of low-level criminal families. Down Terrace features distinctive, atypical dialogue (I love the scene where Bill witters on about the death of his own generation’s high-minded veneration of drug-taking), and fantastic visual touches (the lady being pushed suddenly in-front of a car, and the dead-pan way that stuffed body bags are just ‘part of the furniture’). What Wheatley has succeeded in doing is to make a film that is compelling in its own right, while also letting it function meta-referentially – as commentary on the gangster/kitchen sink genres it so mercilessly distorts. (May 2014)

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