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Sugarhouse
UKScreen Rating:

Sugarhouse – Review

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

What’s middle-class, clean-cut Tom (Mackintosh) doing in a dodgy east-end café, in a run-down part of London?
He’s meeting D (Walters), a low-life chancer, who’s agreed to sell him a gun.
In time-honoured movie fashion, what should be a simple sale doesn’t go to plan – not least because it turns out that the revolver actually belongs to Hoodwink (Serkis), an insanely ruthless former Northern Ireland loyalist terrorist who’s settled in London – or more accurately, is rather unsettled in London.
During the course of the film, we find out why Tom wants the gun, why D needs the money and why Hoodwink needs his gun back – and one way or another, after a bit of everyone’s blood has been shed, it all ties up rather conveniently.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

With most of the action taking place in a warehouse or a yard, this film would be equally at home on the stage – barring a few minor supporting characters, it’s a series of two or three-hander scenes with the protagonists.
As such, it felt rather small and parochial. They were small, rather uninteresting characters, each with little ambition or potential.
It’s an unsatisfying, linear story, with nothing else going on outside the main strand – no subplot’s to speak of. Tom’s only goal is to get the gun, D’s only aim is get some money and Hoodwink’s only purpose is to get his gun back.
It’s all too predictable too – you can feel exactly when we’re about do discover the next revelation – hold on…any second now, we’ll find out why he wanted the gun…and sure enough, right on time, along comes an expositional piece of dialogue to confirm your suspicions.
The way the relationships develop don’t feel convincing either – one minute D and Tom are antagonistic towards each other, the next they’re not, then they are again, and so on, but the reasoning doesn’t feel real.
Aside from the plot, there were a few too many incoherences – the housing estate which is seen to be next to Canary Wharf in one shot is described in another as being in Kings Cross – the local police force, as seen on a murder-appeal poster, is Thames Valley…have the production design team not heard of the Metropolitan Police force, or indeed the A-to-Z?
But putting the script and other elements of the production to one side (hardly the most sensible to offer critique of a film), there’s no denying the fact that the three key performances are powerful and impressive – straight out of acting school, really. D’s itching ticks, Tom’s uncomfortable mix of hapless fears and determination and Hoodwink’s unbridled anger.
I’m always apprehensive when a British film comes to the big screen, as its success or failure have such a key influence over whether the next film will even get made.
Regrettably, this film lacks the ambition it needs to make anything other than the actors stand out. It doesn’t make London exciting or frightening. It doesn’t make guns exciting or frightening. Drugs come out the same.
All you really take away with you is the fact that some people aren’t that happy and life can be tough on a council estate. Neither conclusion is surprising, so the film has little impact, other than the emotional punch of the performances, but without characters interesting enough to support that, any emotional kick is long since gone by the time you leave the cinema.

opens 24th August 2007

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