Down Terrace Ben Wheatley

Down TerraceBen Wheatley
Taking the pitch-black crime element of the Coens, styling it with the budget-conscious vérité aesthetic of Ken Loach then applying it to the constant game of one-upmanship existing in the vogue British gangster genre, first time feature director Ben Wheatley has crafted an anomalous and consistently hilarious, if flawed, comedy of idiosyncrasy and misanthropy. It's a testament to script and focused performance that such an achievement comes from such a claustrophobic film set almost entirely in a single location.

This location is the humble home of a dysfunctional crime family reunited when father and son — Bill (Robert Hill) and Karl (Robin Hill) — are released from prison for an unnamed misdeed. Barking passive-aggressive comments at each other, the meandering and incisive Bill suspects that everyone is a police informant, while Karl learns of his impending fatherhood by seeing his old girlfriend, looking at her stomach and exclaiming, "Fuck!"

Amidst the acid flashback rants and mercurial reactions to the mundane and incidental, taking into account the environment and awkwardness of human insecurity, are theories on potential rats, which they eventually start killing. That bitchy discussions about weight gain careen so seamlessly to people being beaten to death with a hammer in the upstairs hallway speaks to the film's unflinching darkness in tone.

If there is a flaw, it's that the plot trajectory takes over in the third act, twisting character motivations and outcome, losing much of the preliminary invigorating zeal of the many off-centre interactions. A hired killer with a toddler in tow and the cold-hearted murder of a senior citizen with a walker suggest an ability to maintain the gritty comic duality, but conventionality ultimately takes over.

Regardless, very few films succeed in being quite this funny. While not quite In the Loop uproarious, it certainly trumps any number of bland, smug comedies to come from the United States in the last decade. (Evokative)