4 August 2008 | Afzal-s2007
A Mature, Intelligent and Ambitious Thriller Let Down by Uninspired Direction and Terrible Production Values
With a cast of great TV actors, Stockard Channing, Pete Postlethwaite, Juliet Stevenson, to name but a few, and an excellent script from the writer Farrukh Dhondy, I was definitely interested to see the film when it was listed on satellite TV.
What other films with the subject nature of terrorism fail on is insight into character. As a long standing British Asian writer and educator, Dhondy has a clear insight into the three dimensional Asian terrorists he has created (all well played by young, little known actors). These are people he understands intimately, and represent the patchwork nature of British Islamism. Further, Dhondy does not flinch from telling harsh truths, both about Muslims and Non-Muslims. It is a must for all who want an insight into the roots of British Islamism.
Moreover, Dhondy's gifts as a storyteller also shine through and his script is intelligent, funny and gripping, a rare combination. His only fault is in trying to pack too many characters and plot-lines in. I can understand he was trying to create a climate around the theme of generation gap and cultural degeneration, but the tapestry feeling seemed a little contrived.
What lets the film down is its clearly pathetic budget. In a small, low-key drama, this hardly matters. However, in an upmarket, 'big' thriller such as this, the cheap production jars in the eye of the viewer. This doesn't matter so much when dealing with the holed-up terrorists and their hostages, but on the parallel plot following the police, it really shows. The police seem to have the resources not of the entire Met, but of a village police station. Related to this, the direction, while competent, is also uninspired, making it look very much like another piece of unoriginal TV, and there is one truly howling continuity error, for which the editor should be shot (figuratively, of course).
Red Mercury certainly would have been better off as a Channel 4 Mini Series, instead of the childish, unimformed Britz (a major Channel 4 mini series of 2007- even stranger when you consider that Dhondy himself was a senior Channel 4 Executive for many years). It is also a real shame that this film was made in 2005, clearly just before the London Bombings, as its ultimately upbeat message was obliterated by the actions of real 'home-grown' terrorists. This must have been one of the reasons for its commercial collapse when it was finally released.