Thursday 6 January 2011

On DVD: "F"

F, a brisk, torn-from-the-tabloid-headlines thriller that uses the now-familiar backdrop of school-as-battleground, isn't quite in the all-stops-out Eden Lake league, but merits, well, a B- for effort. It opens as a study of a burnt-out linguistics teacher (David Schofield) struggling to keep it together eleven months on from an incident in which he was assaulted by a problem pupil who objected to a low grade; in that time, he's been through both a divorce and a process of estrangement from his teenage daughter, who's become a new cause for consternation in the classes he teaches. Matters come to a head on the very night he's taking the detention he's landed the latter with, when the school - deserted, save for a pair of dozy security guards and a few selected members of the teaching and janitorial staff - finds itself besieged by the local hoodie population.

Writer-director Johannes Roberts takes his time getting there, establishing Schofield's beleaguered prof as both a man badly in need of a second chance to prove himself (the tribunal scene is a mini-classic of passive-aggressive school management-speak) and somebody whose fears about kids hanging round the school after hours might well be understood as raging paranoia. Negatives are some business with a lissom gym mistress - played, as the press notes assure me, by "FHM Hot 100 regular" Roxanne McKee - that comes over as so much pandering to fanboys; a silly-cartoonish score; and variable minor performances. Still, it keeps coming up with clever ideas and images: making the hoodies faceless, motiveless demons onto which the characters (and the audience) can project their own insecurities is an authentically creepy touch, as is the abandoned floor buffer moving of its own accord, and the home stretch builds up a workable head of tension in darkened libraries and CDT rooms.

F is available on DVD from Monday.

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