Wednesday, 1 October 2014

A stab in the dark: "The Knife That Killed Me"

The brooding Britpic The Knife That Killed Me proceeds from a conceit that takes some getting used to: it's trying to evoke the horrors of knife crime on green-screen sets that create a stylised world closer to Sin City or 300 than council-estate reality. Compositionally, the results are undeniably striking, an attempt to visualise Broken Britain that dodges many of the usual cliches, heading instead in the direction of Brueghel's overcast horizons and the dark Satanic mills of Blake; one overview of a Northern industrial town as marked out in schoolboy doodlings recalls Lars von Trier's Dogville experiments.

As drama, unfortunately, the film is only fitfully convincing. There's some rationale for the look, in that the story is being narrated in flashback from the limbo of the recently stabbed Paul (Jack McMullen), a sensible lad, drawn into criminal activity despite his own better instincts; the shifting, permeable virtual boundaries only add to the palpable sense of insecurity the film evokes. Yet as in Noel Clarke's decidedly analogue 'hood diptych, the violence has been trumped up to near-Jacobean levels, at the expense of entirely believable characterisation. Several supporting turns are pitched rather too broad, as though the filmmakers were going for a cartoon, and not the salutary civics-class lesson the narrative otherwise looks to be working towards. Still, these are rookie errors, and unlike a lot of homegrown productions emerging from the low-budget sector, The Knife That Killed Me does have a kind of vision about it - albeit one so relentlessly, persistently bleak as to make Grange Hill look like St. Trinian's.

The Knife That Killed Me opens in selected cinemas from October 24.

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