Thursday 5 July 2018

"In Darkness" (Guardian 06/07/18)

In Darkness ***
Dir: Anthony Byrne. With: Natalie Dormer, Emily Ratajkowski, Ed Skrein, James Cosmo. 100 mins. Cert: 15

Here is, by some distance, the rummest film of the week – and possibly the summer entire. It’s partly been conceived to demonstrate writer-producer-star Natalie Dormer can do elfin resilience, like Audrey Hepburn in Wait Until Dark, yet swallowing what’s going on around her may require not just a pinch of salt, but the whole damn mine. Dormer’s Sofia is a blind pianist making her way in London by scoring lurid thrillers; she ends up in one after her absurdly glam neighbour (Instagram queen Emily Ratajkowski) takes a fatal header off an upstairs balcony. It transpires the deceased was – ahem – a Serbian warlord’s daughter, who’d – come on now – secreted a much-sought USB stick in our heroine’s pocket.

So yes, it’s ridiculous: so ridiculous that when Ed Skrein, as the conflicted hitman tailing Sofia, informs wild-eyed employer Joely Richardson that his quarry is blind, it yields the mirthful response “Seriously?”. The movie keeps tipping us these knowing poundstore-Hitchcock winks, sending on first the ever-dependable Neil Maskell as an incongruously chirpy detective chomping his way through the contents of the catering truck, then James Cosmo as a wheezy repository of exposition. Somewhere in between, it puts into play a rare poison known as Liquid Gold, possibly named after the deadly “Dance Yourself Dizzy” hitmakers. By the time our heroine is revealed as less innocent than first thought, we can’t say we haven’t been primed.

Anthony Byrne, previously confined to TV (Peaky Blinders, Ripper Street), directs with a snickering, off-the-hook glee that gets the film past odd lulls in narrative energy: punching up sound and lighting effects, he makes space for Skrein to toss ne’er-do-wells into oncoming traffic, and finds fetish items everywhere. Despite solid location work, the whole owes nothing to reality; instead, it creates its own universe, where the usual bylaws of logic and gravity are suspended, it almost makes sense that the dancer from the “Blurred Lines” video is playing a Serbian warlord’s daughter, and a filmmaker can just about get away with repurposing war crimes for thrills and spills. Very trashy, very silly, not unenjoyable on some basic level.

In Darkness opens in selected cinemas tomorrow, ahead of its DVD release on Monday. 

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