Friday 22 July 2016

Raw meat: "K-Shop"

It sounds horrendously lurid and exploitative - the obvious poster quote would be Death Wish meets Sweeney Todd, ideally set out in a shocking pink or ectoplasmic green hue, and with an exclamation mark appended - yet you can see exactly where Dan Pringle's thought-through genre item K-Shop is coming from: it's born out of a sincere sympathy for those unfortunates stuck behind neon-lit bakelite counters at three in the morning, frying chips and shaving doners for lairy, horny or otherwise mashed-up clubbers. We've all observed their plight; here, we're introduced to Salah (Ziad Abaza), a politics student who returns to his native Bournemouth to help his ailing father run the family kebab outlet, and winds up adding one or two items to the specials menu after his customers push him too far.

As vigilante-movie lore insists, Pringle invokes a specific set of circumstances so we might at least initially go along with the killing: the indifference of the cops who now look upon Friday night brouhaha as standard, and therefore hardly worth investigating; the callousness of a system that refuses all responsibility for Salah's father's condition; the ugly, gloating privilege of those pissheads and pillfiends who come crashing through his doors; the way certain minor celebrities appear to have money, success, women handed to them on a plate. (As a Big Brother contestant-turned-local club owner, Scot Williams does a nifty impersonation of the kind of morally vacuous Z-lister who can only dream of becoming Danny Dyer.) 

Vigilante movies have traditionally reared their ugly heads whenever and wherever a society has taken a pronounced shift to the right. K-Shop could do with a leaner cut: our patience, along with our moral flexibility, stretches only so far, and you come to feel the second half, circling around in the mire. (It also perpetuates one of this subgenre's most clanging cliches: the wall of newspaper clippings by which our so-called hero reveals his secret identity as a sociopath.) Yet on a narrative level, it actually functions far better than any of the titles in the movies' last vigilante cycle (which ran roughly from 2004 to 2009 - perhaps not coincidentally the Dubya years - and encompassed Man on Fire, The Dark Knight and The Brave One in the US, and Outlaw and Harry Brown closer to home).

Pringle identifies a recognisably grotty British milieu in the last-resort fast food stop, and proceeds through it with both an understanding of these outlets' place in modern city centres, and an eye for the skeezier fringes of the Friday and Saturday night crowd. We can safely assume the writer-director didn't have to look too far for the vignettes of aggro, banter and carnage that punctuate the film, but then the level of detail is sound throughout: even the characters' ringtones are telling. The definition of post-pub entertainment, K-Shop is also a horror movie with a (bloodied) social conscience: one to make you think twice as to how you comport yourself the next time you stagger across the threshold of Balham Fried Chicken in search of something to soak up the £1 shots or simply hold down the nausea.

K-Shop opens in selected cinemas from today, ahead of its DVD release on August 1.

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