90 Minutes **
Dir: Simon Baker. With: Robert Ristic, Peyvand Sadeghian, Leon Sua, Anton Saunders. 86 mins. Cert: 18.
A decade on from teaming Danny Dyer, 50 Cent and Brenda Blethyn for 2009’s bargain-bin circler Dead Man Running, Rio Ferdinand re-enters the world of lowish-budget film production with a quasi-real time drama centred on those lads and lasses (mostly lads) drawn to the rough-and-tumble of the Hackney Marshes’ weekend leagues. Yet despite the title’s ticking clock, writer-director Simon Baker’s mudbound mosaic exhibits a shambling quality that suggests a slacker Slacker, passing the ball from character to character without ever quite doing anything interesting with it. An hour in, two spectators – in an echo of those epochal McCain’s ads – start pondering whether it’s chips for tea; play is rather shruggingly abandoned at the 86-minute mark. One way or another, you emerge shortchanged.
Baker deserves some credit for wrongfooting us. A prevalence of lairy geezers in the opening scenes establishes expectations of another casual crime story, yet what follows operates in an insistently minor, observational key. These blokes are all talk in short trousers, scrapping it out only on the pitch while communing in that musky banter (“Shave your fuckin’ balls, lads, Magaluf ‘ere we come!”) which doubtless goes over like gangbusters in the back row of the minibus. The DVD, when it emerges in the coming weeks, could conceivably be repackaged with the Lynx Africa giftset. Still, viewers drawn here by the footballing connection will likely be those most disappointed by the lack of straightforward action: Baker cuts all this dialogue with negligible non-highlight packages of skied crosses and shinned chances.
Ferdinand nabs himself a funny cameo, seen shooting the breeze with Jody Morris during one of several lulls in play, and Anton Saunders is a credibly grizzled presence as the coach incurring major aggro on the touchlines, but the squad’s younger talent have to make do with showreel-bound snippets that don’t add up to a movie. It remains oddly likable, with attractive aerial photography of the Marshes themselves, and its mazy narrative dribbles bring it within touching distance of a better film: with Chelsea money and a few more drafts, Baker might have arrived at a matchday fresco that merited the Altman comparisons he surely set out looking for. As it stands, it just feels underdeveloped, too rooted in humdrum, hungover Sunday-morning reality to justify even this fleeting theatrical runout.
90 Minutes opens in selected cinemas from Tuesday, ahead of its DVD release on April 1.