A strong young cast and an unexpectedly affecting message boost this grimy urban drama.
Here we go again. Another cheap slice of yoofsploitation sponged from Noel Clarke's flashy brand of urban realism. Only, Victim isn't that film. Despite the familiarity of its opening skit, in which a trio of balaclava-wearing Laandan lads conduct a shouty daylight robbery, there's a clear and admirable message about the consequences of pursuing a career in crime that sets Alex Pillai's film apart from other likeminded inner city dramas. But only just.
The conduit for this grimy morality tale is Tyson (Ashley Chin), a young man struggling to protect his even younger sister from the harsh reality that has forsaken them. Abandoned by their mother, Tyson has been raising Nyla (Letitia Wright) alone since the age of 16, and has turned to burglary in order to put food on the table and keep schoolbooks in her rucksack. He wants out, but needs must.
Enter wispy country-girl Tia (Ashley Madekwe), who comes to stay with her cousin Davina (Anna Nightingale) – a regular accessory to Tyson's antisocial behaviour – and inadvertently flips Tyson's worldview on its head. Having seen a way out he duly vows to start afresh. But One Last Job comes calling, and Tyson rolls the dice with his – and Nyla's – life once more.
Director Pillai has more than earned his shot at feature filmmaking, having worked in British television for more than 15 years on everything from post-apocalyptic commuter-clusterfuck The Last Train to The Bill. Understandably perhaps, his time churning out cheap TV sci-fi and primetime soap opera fodder has left its mark on his creative disposition.
Because although Victim is a film with cinematic aspirations it boasts none of the nuance of, say, Paul Andrew Williams' Cherry Tree Lane (which, incidentally, also starred Chin) or Saul Dibb's Bullet Boy. Both script and cast deserved better.
Not anuva LDN yoof flick...
Despite some major character flaws, a strong young cast and even stronger message are enough to raise Victim beyond expectation.
But it's let down by a spectacularly crude ending.