Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Tarantino's bastards

The wave of ultra-violent British films that arguably began with Guy Ritchie's Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels reaches its nadir in The Business (2005), a bloody celebration of greed, brutality, misogyny and murder, not to mention a paean to the worst excesses of Thatcher's Britain. Directed by an unpleasant, dead-eyed poseur called Nick Love, it follows the exploits of a bunch of south London gangsters on the Costa del Sol over the period 1983-1989.

The Brutalist wave, imitated in miniature by the happy-slappers on cellphone screens, owes its beginnings, of course, to the happy-slappy violence of Quentin Tarantino's films, in particular Reservoir Dogs. But Tarantino is a brilliant dialogue writer, whatever his amoral take on mayhem. There is humour and there is heart, even if only as pathos in his most repellant characters.

The Business is the kind of film Tarantino might make after a prefrontal lobotomy. Its only stab at humour is a scene where the likely lads test bulletproof jackets by shooting at each other. And it is a film without a heart; indeed, it is heartless in the worst sense of the word.

The plot is the old standby, new kid Frankie (Danny Dyer) taken under the wing of a thug called Charlie "the Playboy" (Tamer Hassan), becomes as depraved as the rest; and is finally triumphant, punching out a dead mobster's wife he's been having an affair with and driving off in her car with the hood's money. On the voice-over he boasts: "I got it all, the money, the girl and I rode off into the sunset too."

Women in this movie are either harpies or bitch whores. The most graphic violence in the film is inflicted on a woman who objects to the duo ripping off her guy's coke consignment. Charlie "the Playboy", whom we are expected to indulge as a wide boy with a heart, punches her into a bloody pulp and finally smashes her face in with his boot.

The only really scary character is the psychopathic Sammy, played by Geoff Bell, who I understood to be a former armed robber. Danny Dyer's Frankie is a one-note performance. That goes for his irritating voice-over narration too. Wearing a kind of sour moue, he is never convincing as a thug or a lover (well, there is only one actual and rather perfunctory sex scene, fully clothed). As the director explains, these are "the boys". Yes, the kind of boys, bright with avarice and aggression, who moved into the financial markets in Thatcher's boom time.

Not for nothing does Love conduct an interview beneath a portrait of the Blessed Margaret with a Union Jack hairdo. He tells us that his main concern was to ensure the designer goods and bling were accurate for the period. Nick loves the Eighties. And he says he has a very good memory of the things, like Filo and Adidas sportswear, that characterised the "greed is good" era. The film's look is that of a Cinzano commercial, lovingly lit, sun-burnished, with glittering azure pools, glowing tans, dazzling whites and splashes of primary colours.

The producer declares in the "Making of" documentary that this movie is going to help bring the Eighties back. There isn't any doubt about where this lot stand on that.

Love reveals in an interview with Film Focus that his intended audience is 18- and 19-year-old youths. He dismisses any notion that he is encouraging the kind of pointless yob violence that is distressing Brits right now. But in a very real sense he is validating a culture of random cruelty, kicks for kicks. I have an uneasy feeling that it probably elicited a lot of mindless laughs in the cinema. And it won plaudits from several critics, including one in the Observer, which is very discomfiting. I shan't be subjecting myself to Love's previous offering, The Football Factory (2004).

The Business is not the business. It is a very nasty piece of work.


Blogger First Nations said...

i take it back further, to 'Blue Velvet' and 'Wild at Heart'

i love a good mob movie, but come on.
and the eighties are better off dead and buried. flock of seagulls hair; bleaaaaaaaaagh.

6:40 PM  

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