Tuesday 18 September 2018

On demand: "The Intent"

2016's The Intent has stood for a while as the last, sobering spin in that low-budget British hood cycle initiated by Noel Clarke: the target audience may well have grown up, the industry has veered off in pursuit of exportable Downtoniana, and most sentient adults have agreed that fetishised knife and gunplay probably isn't the healthiest thing for filmmakers to be putting out onto the streets. Its rougher edges initially make it a more intriguing proposition than Clarke's polished, upwardly mobile product (some of which, lest we forget, was sponsored by Costa Coffee). Directors Femi Oyeniran and Kalvadour Peterson recruit non-professional actors (many of whom hail from grime music) and foster a semi-improved performance style, heavy on a street slang the Netflix subtitlers prove almost wholly incapable of handling. There's an underlying bathos, however, in the fact the narrative should rest so heavily on a matter of nominative determinism: introduced cradling a pistol as a child, our narrator Gunz (Dylan Duffus, discovered in Penny Woolcock's One Mile Away) finds himself caught between loyalty to his South London stick-up brethren and doing the right thing for the wider community. (He would presumably have found life that much easier if he'd adopted the street name Sconez or Daisiez.)

There's less of that slumming imposture written through the comparable Clarke films - little sense of RADA-trained actors acting street so as to make off with already deprived viewers' pocket money - but these rough edges often stray into rank amateurism. The Intent is impossibly slack and unfocused in its plotting, and vague around even its central characters: a major revelation about Gunz at the half-hour mark is all but forgotten about for the rest of the movie, as Oyeniran and Peterson switch their attention to shooting montages of dirty money changing hands, and images of what that money can buy a man - flash motors, sex in nightclub toilets, lots of lovely drugs, and lapdancers to snort those drugs off. (Men account for something close to 95% of the credited roles, which possibly explains the bellendrical division of the film's female characters into nags and slags.) There's clearly still cash aplenty in these ghetto entertainments, but increasingly, they've come to seem like a creative dead end, a last, desperate resort for aspirant filmmakers and viewers alike: Clarke blew a lot of energy and much of his industry goodwill on the subgenre, BAFTA Rising Star winner Adam Deacon briefly lost his mind fighting its battles. All involved here clearly think it's an avenue worth pursuing - a prequel opens in the UK this weekend - but they might do well to heed the one genuine nugget of wisdom lost in the fog of their own script: "Don't be so busy making a living that you forget to make a life."

The Intent is now streaming on Netflix; The Intent 2: The Come Up opens in cinemas nationwide this Friday.

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