Friday 21 September 2018

"The Intent 2: The Come Up" (Guardian 21/09/18)

The Intent 2: The Come Up **
Dirs: Femi Oyeniran, Nicky “Slimting” Walker. With: Ghetts, Ashley Chin, Femi Oyeniran, Nicky “Slimting” Walker. 103 mins. Cert: 15

For those who missed it, 2016’s The Intent was a late, independently produced entry in the cycle of inner-city British crime dramas; its rough, grime-infused edges differentiated it from Noel Clarke’s upwardly mobile ‘Hood series, but made for an unintentionally gruelling watch. Money has now been found for a prequel, which proves a touch more polished – an offscreen partnership with Island Records carries the first film’s stick-up crew to Jamaica – yet suffers from the same underlying flaws. Writer-performers Femi Oyeniran and Nicky “Slimting” Walker are simply far more interested in filming themselves wielding shotguns in fetishizing slo-mo than they are in putting in the hard yards of character, or telling a coherent story.

For a long time, there’s evident confusion as to what film The Come Up intends to be. After a nostalgic prologue, where a This is England-style houseparty is rudely interrupted by a pistol-packing child, it shifts into a promising prison stretch, before springing its two thousand characters – a role for every last member of the directors’ entourage – with a few clumsy lines of exposition, and EasyJetting them all into Kingston for an even cheaper The Harder They Come. For all Chris Blackwell’s largesse, the budget never seems big enough to stretch in any one direction: hence the early pursuit conveyed chiefly by asking the performers in one car to look very intently into the rear-view mirror and describe the unseen vehicle behind.

Less woebegone elements include superior location work, cinematographer Tom Watts giving even a passing nocturnal insert of a Costcutter a vaguely Hopper-ish allure; Adam Deacon, displaying newfound assurance as the junior crimeboss tailing our antiheroes; and Sharon Duncan-Brewster, commendably no-nonsense in running an empire from the back of a beauty salon. Time and again, though, a near-fatal combination of creative ADHD and directorial ego yanks us away from these strengths and back towards these films’ dunderheaded raison d’être: giving posturing musicians-not-quite-turned-actors the chance to engage in generally indifferent gunplay. If diptych begets triptych, the ratio of swagger to basic competency will need addressing. 

The Intent 2: The Come Up opens in selected cinemas today.

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