Down Terrace (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner30/07/2010

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 93 mins

Impressively directed and superbly acted, this is a brilliantly written kitchen sink gangster drama that is simultaneously chilling, suspenseful and darkly funny.

What's it all about?
Directed and co-written by Ben Wheatley, Down Terrace begins with father Bill (Robert Hill) and son Karl (co-writer Robin Hill, Robert's real life son) narrowly escaping a prison sentence (though both men served time awaiting trial) and returning to mother Maggie (Julia Deakin, from Spaced) and their Brighton home in order to figure out which of their so-called friends might have snitched on them to the police. Their prime suspect is tubby club-runner Garvey (Tony Way), but Maggie's brother Eric (David Schaal) is also behaving suspiciously.

Things quickly get even more complicated for Karl when his ex-girlfriend Valda (Kerry Peacock) shows up, heavily pregnant with a child she says is his. Karl's new-found responsibilities crystallise his decision to get out of the drug business, but Bill and Maggie aren't about to make it easy for him and there's the small matter of the snitch to take care of first.

The Good
Down Terrace has already been labelled “The Sopranos meets The Royle Family”, which is a fairly accurate description in that it captures the blend of kitchen sink realism, family conflict, black humour and occasional sudden violence. Essentially, it's like a gangster movie directed by Mike Leigh, only with slightly more in the way of bloodshed.

The performances are excellent, particularly Robin Hill, who has a nice line in all-too-familiar-sounding grown-up tantrums (“Where the fucking hell is that photo? Mum! What have you done with my – oh, here it is”). First-time actor Robert Hill is equally good and there's strong support from Peacock, Way, Schaal and Michael Smiley (as comically off-his-game hitman Pringle), but it's Julia Deakin who's the real revelation, delivering a performance that's genuinely chilling and a far cry from her previous comedy roles.

The Great
Wheatley maintains tight control over the material throughout, ensuring that the sudden shifts in tone are breathtaking and deliberately shocking rather than jarring and out of place. The excellent script also includes several unusual touches that serve to make the film more distinctive, such as Bill's penchant for playing folk songs on the guitar.

Worth seeing?
Engaging and original, Down Terrace is a superbly written, brilliantly acted drama that marks director Ben Wheatley out as a talent to watch. Highly recommended.

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Down Terrace (15)
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Content updated: 16/12/2017 20:36

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