This glassy gangland drama too often descends into shouting, preaching and unintentional comedy.
The opening minutes of Dan Turner's The Man Inside suggest a moody, serious-minded inner-city drama which looks set to address issues of youth crime, tit-for-tat violence, spousal abuse and developing discipline through sport (specifically boxing).
Following those opening minutes, the film haplessly swan-dives into a drainage ditch of turgid histrionics, gangland cliché and inane preaching, making the idea of being trapped in an unpainted six-by-four cell for 17 years and with only a damaged copy of Kidulthood for company seem like a sweet release.
It tells the very standard tale of Clayton Murdoch (Ashley Bashy Thomas), a young man whose life is beset on all sides by violence and suffering. If his friends and family aren't being stabbed up by prowling local crims, he's getting a good thumping in the boxing ring.
And if that isn't enough, he's haunted by the memories of his father (David Harewood), a man who appears to taken more than a leaf out the 'Frank Booth Guide to Parenting'. As machinations continue and petty squabbles spill over into to painful death, Clayton is forced to identify his man inside: should he unleash hell on his foes or dob them in to the police?
Not only is Turner's film confusing in the extreme, it's dull as well. The central revenge thread it too often nudged into the backdrop in order to shoehorn in a subplot or skirt over another “issue”. Peter Mullan plays a boxing coach, and is relegated to barking sporting slogans from the sideline.
Michelle Ryan also makes an appearance as Mullan's daughter, Alexia, who's rebellious (wears black lipstick) and is addicted to heroin, all the excuses needed for a protracted and unnecessary cold turkey sequence.
The film's main problem relates to dynamics: it slips too quickly between quiet bathos and splenetic rage. In one scene where Clayton and Alexia are cooing over one another and rekindling a romantic flame from the past, it only takes one phone call to transport Clayton to point of wanting to stave her face in with a monkey wrench.
Some of the performances (Harewood's in particular) are so over-the-top that the film occasionally slips over into unintentional comedy. Once scene involving Harewood and a bungled sweetshop robbery is both jaw-droppingly ill judged and totally hilarious. It annuls any modicum of credibility the film might otherwise have been striving for.
Another week, another Brit gangland flick.
Director Dan Turner demonstrates the occasional piece of visual flair, but his storytelling abilities are totally shot.
Not much to take away from this one (except the occasional laugh).