Saturday 11 May 2019

"The Corrupted" (Guardian 10/05/19)

The Corrupted **
Dir: Ron Scalpello. With: Sam Claflin, Timothy Spall, Naomi Ackie, Hugh Bonneville. 103 mins. Cert: 18

Slipped into cinemas on the quiet, Ron Scalpello’s starry, busy British crime drama proves to be one of those semi-entertaining mixed bags. It has a measure of ambition, strong dramatic scenes and grabby performances, not least from Timothy Spall as a property magnate looming over East London like some doubly malevolent reincarnation of Bob Hoskins’ Harold Shand in The Long Good Friday. Yet the storytelling connecting its disparate elements starts to feel dashed-off, as if somebody involved couldn’t wait for it to occupy the 10pm slot on London Live that may be its destiny. That here-today-gone-tomorrow approach shortsells both cinematographer Richard Mott’s striking framing of the capital’s moneyed hotspots and the spiky idea at the heart of Nick Moorcroft’s script: that the great triumph of the 2012 Olympiad was built on the shakiest of foundations.

The generic title hides a dual meaning. The backdrop is that once-toxic scrap of Stratford forcibly reclaimed by fatcat developers like Spall’s Clifford Cullen, introduced setting murderous muscle on a mechanic holding out on him in the run-up to the Games. Yet it also refers to the biddable entourage of the mechanic’s son Liam (a newly sturdy Sam Claflin), attempting to go straight in the present-day on these very same streets. Upstanding pawns in the populous supporting cast include a sympathetic Naomi Ackie as Liam’s clangingly named ex Grace, and Noel Clarke as the detective investigating the greasy depths of Cullen’s pockets. Question marks, however, linger over David Hayman’s gruff DCI, who has a nicely chilly moment beside an open grave, and Hugh Bonneville as a vaguely Cameronian Westminster bigwig.

There’s enough activity for a miniseries, in other words, and though Scalpello casts well and pulls stretches into cinematic shape, he’s caught garbling key plot points to get to the saleable gunplay and fisticuffs. Some of that action pops, like the tagteam clash in which Clarke, Claflin and Ackie subdue former bareknuckler and all-round hefty unit Decca Heggie with unlikely domestic items. Yet the hardman dialogue is generally as unpersuasive as you’d expect from the writer of Fisherman’s Friends: only Spall, slyly holding court on where his character stands in relation to Europe, has the chops to make any of it stick. Dexter Fletcher’s similarly underpromoted Wild Bill will remain the definitive movie time-capsule of our now-fading Olympian glories – but Scalpello’s film is livelier pulp than the absence of advance fanfare would suggest. 

The Corrupted is now showing in selected cinemas.

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