MOVIE: *1/2 (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: ** (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
I can respect any filmmaker that is trying to deliver an original film under staggering odds. In fact, unless you’re one of the anointed few filmmakers that take charge of the massive summer event films, you fall into this category.
BAFTA-winning actor/writer/director Noel Clarke has seen his fair share of in-front-of-the-camera work, but he’s still working on becoming a household name. Most sci-fi fans have seen him in the early years of the “Doctor Who” reboot as Mickey, Rose Tyler’s boyfriend, and he’s had quite a bit of work in Britain.
His latest major piece is “18.104.22.168,” which he wrote and co-directed with Mark Davis. The story follows four London girls who stumble into a jewel heist. The movie is told from each of the four girls’ perspective over a weekend, as the heist intersects with their own personal problems.
Like many films and television shows I’ve seen lately, I admire the ambition. Unfortunately, it’s the execution that fails here. None of the characters are even remotely likeable.
Jo (Emma Roberts) is meant to be a hard-working blue-collar girl, but she’s not very nice to anyone, including her friends. Cassandra (Tamsin Egerton) is the rich girl who travels to New York to lose her virginity to her online boyfriend, but she makes such stupid moves throughout the movie, I just don’t sympathize with her. Kerrys (Shanika Warren-Markland) is a defiant, rebellious lesbian who is ready to get in a fight with anyone who looks at her sideways, a terribly cliched character at best. Finally, there’s Shannon (Ophelia Lovibond), a mopey teen who was coerced into getting an abortion, which yields an awkward and often confused and preachy political element.
There’s an attempt to understand each of the girl’s perspective, but with no likability or sympathy for them, it’s hard to swallow. More over, as the movie tries to weave together this not-quite-so-brilliant-as-they-think-it-is jewel heist sidestory, the film feels like its held together with wet tissue paper and chewing gum. Like the forced abortion storyline with Shannon, this results in back-end preaching about conflict diamonds that only superficially gets mentioned but never gets examined in the slightest.
Clarke does some cool things with the camera, including an innovative way to show the four stories splitting up. However, this feels like a fantasy, trying to tell the story of four girls in what one might consider sexy in a wet dream. And to make the filmmaker fantasy complete, Clarke gives us the most unnecessary and out-of-place bit part by filmmaker Kevin Smith. I’m still trying to wrap my brain around that angle.
The Blu-ray comes with a 20-minute making-of featurette, which answers some of the questions that arise during the film, but sadly it’s a better-directed and more cohesive piece than the film itself.