There’s plenty of Kidulthood here, but 126.96.36.199 is a twisty-turny topsy-turvy back to front neo-noir.
Successful guy, Noel Clarke. BAFTA awarded, widely acclaimed actor and director embraced by both the BBC and the Ali-G generation. He’s beating the drum for young British cinema with attitude, and God knows that British cinema needs that.
He also can be a little spiky; as he says on his Twitter page: 'All constructive opinions welcome, but bite me, I bite back.' As tempting as it is to experience said bite, we'll try and be as constructive and well behaved as possible. Deep breath.
188.8.131.52 will, it is hoped, be remembered as the Be Here Now of Clarke’s career. Arriving with a lot of fanfare, it will do well at the box office by enlivening the suburbanite Generation Y, will rouse the loyal fan base and probably provide all the justification needed. Nevertheless, it is rubbish.
There’s plenty of Kidulthood here – sass, grime, hoodies and hard-talk – but it's also a twisty-turny topsy-turvy back to front neo-noir, with a bit of Sex and the City thrown in. Four bolshie girl mates, their inter-relationships immediately untenable, hook up in a fast-food joint for some pseudo-feminist banter before heading their separate ways.
As suggested by the title, we are then forced, tortuously, to follow each one in turn as they become embroiled in a half-baked Spooks-esque heist plot. The multithreads, a la Pulp Fiction, weave and collide, but it’s all too linear, too telegraphed, its influences too obvious, its edges sanded down by compromise.
Aesthetically, and in terms of performance, there’s little improvement. Each of the girls, apart from the not so good-looking one, has the intimacies of her body needlessly revealed for us to gawp at. Worse, in its enthusiasm to embrace teen subservience, it only reaffirms scaremongering Daily Mail racial stereotypes. Alexander Siddig’s caricature of a first generation middle-eastern immigrant is embarrassing for such a talented and, in this context, experienced actor. That said it’ll be surprising if this causes much complaint from the target audience.
There are prescient themes and notable moments of melodrama here – Ophelia Lovibond’s sado-masochism through familial breakdown, Shanika Warren-Markland’s morbidly casual fascination with gun culture – but they’re lost in the indulgent, laboured hoopla.
Underneath all the confusion and irreverent silliness and self-aggrandisement, there’s a sense of woefully misplaced calculation here. But most sadly, Clarke has lost his way; forgotten his audience and had his head turned one-way and then the other. Feel free to bite.