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Made in Britain

Youth Against The System
"Made In Britain" follows Trevor, a 16 year old thug, thief, vandal, sociopath, over a three day period - but in this very short time frame his young life moves out of one phase and into another. Seemingly the consequences of his actions will have repercussions for the rest of his life and the phase he moves into is one destined to take him on a path to 'self destruction'.

Set in London, 1982, the film was based on a case study of a youth. Trevor in the story is a skinhead with a nazi swastika tattooed on his forehead. He espouses racism and nationalist rhetoric, and commits racially aggravated attack on a Pakistani household - although whether he is an outright racist is debatable, as his only 'friend' in the film, Errol, is a black youth.

The film begins with Trevor attending a court hearing, for an earlier attack on the Pakistani household. The motive for the crime appears to be racial. The court hearing adjourned, Trevor is taken by Harry, his social worker, to a Youth Assessment Hostel. Here Trevor will be assessed before returning to court for sentence and standing before the Magistrates charged with theft from a department store.

Trevor has the appearance of an unrepentant thug and hooligan - and espouses the rhetoric of a far-right nationalist, full of aggression and venom. However, as it unfolds during the film's central piece (a very long sequence between Trevor and the social workers) Trevor transpires to be intelligent. He has argument and structure to his rhetoric, he has sharp wit and an observant grasp of society beyond his years. By the end of the sequence, whether Trevor is the 'nazi' we thought him to be, is questionable.

Trevor, it would seem, is 'against authority' and namely against the British establishment - the system - although he prizes himself on his 'Britishness'. He is perhaps a kind of anarchic-patriot.

The film is a masterfully crafted and acted piece of cinematic drama. It is earthy and in your face, has fantastic energy - in part owing to skillful use of stedicam - and like most, if not all of Alan Clark's films, does not use music or score. There is a fast aggressive punk song used to very good effect but only in the film's opening and closing titles.

"Made In Britain" is a tour de force, set among only several back street London locations, with a minimal amount of characters. The characters, though some only occupy one or two scenes, are interestingly multi-layered, such as PC Anson - the thuggish, possibly sadistic policeman who beats Trevor in a cell. Anson is perhaps Trevor's counterpart but who instead has opted to work for the state rather than to rebel against it.

The acting is superb, first rate. The screen writing and direction are fantastic. Highly recommended.


The Young Gangsters
Strong performances with an authentic variety of characters and decent although fairly simple storyline, it is a film about young professional criminals. They are not masterminds (they're not particularly bright in any sense) they are one-time delinquent youth now graduated to 20-somethings. Kicking-off with a high energy jewel-store heist when jumpsuit clad motorbike-riders crash through a shopping mall with sledge hammers, inter-cut with a pair of hoodies spraying aerosol flames at policemen as they are chased from doing graffiti over railway lines, you expect this film is going to be a solid punch in the guts. And I'm pleased to say that it is, at least for the most part. Enter the gritty domains of siblings Marcus and Dee, their girlfriends, partners in crime, and their rivals. Their father had been a bank robber back in the day, and while Dee is only a petty crook cum graffiti artist, Marcus has gone into the family trade with his own gang and brand of armed robbery; 'smashing and grabbing' Gold Rolex watches on motorbikes. The film is a back and forth between Dee's life, as he goes from being a delinquent graffiti artist to a ghetto poster-boy of the wealthy urban art dealers, and Marcus' life as he and his gang rob every jewellers and occasional drug-dealer until they have enough swag to do what all armed-robbers do; move into the drugs business. The film is a nose-dive into the world of young gangsters and one which rings more true than the usual fare of stereo-type hard-nuts and violence for the sake of it (in fact compared with most gang films they seem like choir boys until they've got a shotgun or axe in hand). At times it slips into melodrama when Dee and his American girlfriend (Rachel from "Suits") ponder over careers and the meaning of art, but it is held up by the manic drive of Marcus' gangster life, his criminal ascension, and the relationship between the two brothers. A prolonged gun fight outside a busy city nightspot is staged with a brilliance rarely seen in British films and is a chilling reminder of the violence of young gangsters in London, likewise an extended, very violent aggravated robbery scene carried out by the rival gang which is the film's darkest moment, makes Anti-Social one of the more poignant British dramas of 2015.

The Long Good Friday

Underworld thriller bordering on espionage
As Britain enters the Thatcher era, Harold Shand, London's most powerful criminal businessman, is on the verge of turning his underworld-empire into a legitimate corporation. As much as being a metaphor for the era, Harold is a genuinely believable force to be reckoned with, having Scotland Yard Detectives and London Councillors deep in his pockets, as well as influential members of society and his 'firm' of gangland henchmen forming his inner-circle. Played with complete conviction by the wonderful Bob Hoskins as Harold, supported by the great Helen Mirren as his upper-class wife Victoria, "The Long Good Friday" is a first rate underworld-set movie which edges to the boundary of espionage thriller. It has a narrative which reaches far beyond the excellent "Get Carter" which preceded it and "Mona Lisa" which came after it, two powerful bench mark films which focused solely on the underworld. The LGF has two distinct sub-plots running side by side which have dire consequences for Harold, both of which are directly linked to his growing power. Directed seamlessly, it is only a matter of time before the two threads come together (somewhere before the film's middle) and then Harold goes about dealing with the 'problem' the only way he knows how; with unshakable belief in himself and in his abilities. If the movie poses any question for thought, then it must be one which concerns the debate over brute force Vs ideology.

Spoiler Alert! As Harold's power-base and organisation grows, two trusted right-hand men (Colin of the old-guard and Jeff of the new generation) begin abusing their privileged positions within the expanding empire, operating with impunity motivated by greed and envy. When an unsanctioned 'job' for an IRA terrorist cell in Northern Ireland goes wrong, Harold's empire comes under violent retribution with premises bombed and henchmen murdered. While this takes place, Harold puts together a multi-million pound deal with American investment partners to re-develop London's rundown docklands; a project that will set an example for England's future, making it, in Harold's words "a leading European State". As the escalating destruction of his empire eventually comes to his attention (initially convinced that it must be an old underworld rival attempting to discredit him) Harold reacts with swift brutality. Unravelling the mystery, notching up murders and a terror campaign of his own, while Victoria strives to keep the lid of respectability on his empire, Harold becomes blinded by his wrath in order to reassert his authority regardless of whom against.

Romper Stomper

Crude, Ugly, Brilliant, Flawless
In the decaying urban squalor of Melbourne's back streets a gang of racist Skinheads live out a crude existence of nazi-rock parties, heavy drinking, and brutal assaults on immigrant youth. Led by psychotic neo-nazi Hando, the gang comprises Davey (his best mate), Bubbs (the underage mascot), Sonny, Cackles, Brett, Champ and Luke, along with their female 'camp-followers' of two dubious Goths and some tough-talking Skin-Girls. Several scenes (one presumes intentionally) eerily remind of "A Clockwork Orange" which adds marvellously if not chillingly to its overall tone, although the film is otherwise a piece of no holds barred realist cinema.

When Gabe, a lost soul and deeply troubled young woman, strays into a back-street pub claimed by the gang as their hangout, the subtle cracks in the dynamics between Hando and Davey gradually unfold. As no-less a violent and unrelenting racist as Davey is, he is evidently a gentler more mild personality than Hando, and is to a large extent in Hando's shadow. As Gabe gets it on with Hando becoming the gang's latest auxiliary, Davey is smitten and his interest is not lost on Gabe, who for her part at least encourages his attention…if not craves it.

Then a vicious attack on two immigrant men, which starts as an impulsive act of 'political activism', becomes the beginning of the end for the Skinhead gang and for the relationships between Hando, Davey and Gabe. After a terrifying mass fight against an overwhelming mob of Vietnamese men, which towers leagues above anything I've seen in any other 'gang film' and which arcs the entire middle of the movie, the Skinheads end up well and truly on the run. Resorting to basic human instincts and no longer able to conceal their worst personal defects (or in Davey's case, his affections for Gabe), the remnants of Hando's gang try to survive the dire circumstances their actions have brought upon them, and as they continue a catalogue of lawless deeds against those perceived as their enemies, the proverbial time-bomb continues to tick. One by one they fall, as Hando's once iron grip slips to sub-gutter (quite literally in one scene) leadership, forcing Davey to abandon his 'idol' and attempt to go it alone. With a tragically magnificent finale, this is a timeless story which delves into the raw and ugly of our times.


Football Hooligan belonging and Dead End lives
When tough-man, hooligan-gang leader Principe is released from prison he discovers his mob 'the Brigatte Veneno', a fanatical and violent grouping of AS Roma fans, are now led by his best friend, the more sensitive Red. While he has been in jail, Red has also begun an affair with Cinzia, who was Principe's girlfriend.

The mob of hooligans are a curious bunch consisting mostly of sociopaths and thugs hellbent on violence, and younger softer local fans along for the ride and thrill. The tensions rise and crank up as Principe and Red jostle for control of the gang, by strength of character not brawn, and for the affections of Cinzia. Which way Cinzia will go is uncertain, as she seems to lean towards both men. Like the outcast hooligans she is associated with, though she is beautiful and dressed like a something from a magazine - she too is a character who craves danger and thrills - and like the hooligans, perhaps to her won ultimate detriment.

As the Brigatter Veneno leave Roma for a mass trip to Turin for a match against rival club Juventus, the hooligan mobs of each side prepare for war. Lead now with certainty, by Principe, disaster awaits them as they clash with their Turino counterparts, and Red will blame the hot-headed Principe for the outcome.


a powerful portrait and metaphorical thriller
Ali is an ex-convict who on release from prison returns home to the city of Tehran. Reconnecting his fragmented family of wife and daughter, he finds a job working night shifts to provide. Tehran, depicted as an urban jungle fraught with dissent and unrest, becomes like a 'prison' to Ali, and he manages to hold on to his sanity by going away to the forest North of the city, as often as he can, to hunt.

One day Ali's wife and daughter go missing. After a tense and lengthy procedure to try and locate them, he learns from the Police that they have been killed in the cross-fire of a city gun fight between Police officers and an Insurgent group. There is an ambiguity surrounding Ali's wife and daughter; around their origin (is she really his daughter); and concerning their ultimate fates.

Ali almost breaks but manages to retain some sense of his sanity by instead breaking from the state. He takes his hunting rifle and staking out a highway road from a hill top, he kills two random police officers. He leaves Tehran and goes on the run only to be tracked by a police helicopter which eventually leads to a high speed car chase when his car is spotted on a foggy mountain road by a patrol-car. Captured by two policemen after a deep forest pursuit, the three of them find themselves lost. Wandering in frustration through dense mountain forest, their is a shift in the dynamics between the Policemen and Ali, and a deadly conflict between the two officers gradually surfaces.

It is a striking and tense, emotional thriller with long periods (sequence after sequence beautifully shot) absent of dialogue which makes the film all the more fully engaging.

I ragazzi del 42° plotone

The Vietnam War - like you never seen it before (ever)!!!
"Brothers in War" is a stinker but definitely worth watching if you like B-Movie action. Considering that it was made in 1989 - three years AFTER "Platoon", "Full Metal Jacket" and "Hamburger Hill" - it begs the question, 'what on earth were director Camillo Teti and his production team thinking??'.

Set in the Vietnam war, the story is simple; a singer is sent to an army camp to entertain the troops, the camp is about to be besieged, so two GIs are ordered to escort her and her manager to safety behind the lines.

The singer Mary (a stunning blonde in hot-pants) is escorted by John (the young soft-hearted hunk GI) and Josy (a sleazy, rugged SGT Rock type GI) with her manager Burt in toe (an American tourist in Hawiian shirt and shorts). They take a jeep. Yes a JEEP!! And begin their journey through hostile jungle.

John carries a Tommy Gun!! Josy carries and pump-action shotgun!! No M16s or M60s in sight!!! The journey goes like this; they drive, they are lost without any sense of direction, Mary shows a lot of leg and cleavage, Josy keeps pestering her with crude propositions and asking about her sex life, John frowns and persistently tells Josy to stop bothering her, Burt keeps asking if they are there yet.

Along the way they are continually ambushed by Vietnamese soldiers. None of them get shot but the droves of Vietnamese simply fall dead to the ground in heaps the moment John and Josy pull their triggers. They never have to reload and are able to converse with each other mid-fight when the Vietnamese are off-camera.

In a strange, illogical scene, John busts the jeep trying to cross a river - so they continue their journey on foot. By this point Mary is barefoot too. Then John and Burt fall into a large hole, man-trap. Whilst they are stuck down there, Josy decides to rape Mary - she guesses what he's up to - he catches her and after a brutal struggle he rapes her on the ground. Its a long drawn out rape scene with lots of screaming and kicking legs - all the while John and Burt aware of whats going on, shouting up from the hole.

In the aftermath, Josy has vanished into the jungle to go it alone and John and Burt having climbed out of the hole find Mary cowering and sobbing. The three of them continue on - Mary now miraculously recovered from her ordeal. John however has become neurotic. Still lost, they find a boat full of dead locals. They empty the boat and take it along the river whereupon they see another boat seemingly crewed by harmless locals. Mary and Burt want to ask the boat people for food, however John warns them from doing so - and as the boat gets closer the boat people open fire. Burt is somehow killed by grenade which causes no harm to their boat or to John and Mary. John promptly massacres the boat people. Mary then tells John that Burt was not only her manager but also her ex-husband.

Back on land, John and Mary get caught in a net which falls from a tree - Vietnamese soldiers appear and capture them. Held in a cage submerged in water on the bank of the Vietnamese camp, John cracks-up. Then John and Mary have sex - a long, passionate scene!! After sex, a bunch of soldiers approach, drag Mary out of the cage and off to their huts, while John curses them. John then watches as the soldiers gang-rape Mary all night and seemingly all of the next day, and into the next night. Soldiers pile into one hut and rape her, she is then dragged into another hut, and so on! The following night, Josy is brought into the cage. He had been captured on his own journey. John is then taken to one of the huts where he is tortured by the Vietnamese. The senior Vietnamese soldier is played by a Turkish actor with slanted-eye makeup, doing his best impression of a Mexican bandit! John then kills his tormentors, rushes into the next hut where Mary is being raped, kills the rapists, gives Mary clothes and the pair escape to the trees.

During the fire-fight, Mary now blasting from a submachine gun, John sets Josy free. When Mary sees Josy she wants to kill him, but John stops her!! They then blow up the camp using grenades which have the effect of incendiary bombs, sending the buildings sky-high, levelling the camp. Josy then does a one-man stand in order to make amends and allow John and Mary to get away. By daylight, Josy catches up with John and Mary in the jungle - he is wounded and has a farewell death scene in John's arms - all is forgiven!! John and Mary then come across a unit of Americans who begin shooting at them. If you thought the film couldn't get any stranger!!! John explains something about the Americans not being what they seem - its never properly explained (are they mercenaries?? some kind of "Apocalypse Now" cult??) then a unit of Vietnamese come along on a TRAIN of all things, there is a huge battle and somehow John and Mary get away to safety and find a platoon of 'good' Americans. The film ends with the two 'love birds' laughing and cuddling in some long grass as the American troops walk by smiling.

"Brothers in War" is the strangest war movie I have ever seen. The acting is terrible, the script shocking, the casting is off-the-wall (Mexican bandit is another level and Josy is like a greasy villain from a cheap horror), but that said its a film worth watching if nothing else but for the fact that it is so bizarre.

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