The film seemed to hold a lot of promise as the trailer that had been previously released looked rather good and it is one of the featured films of the Edinburgh International Film Festival this year.
I had no preconceptions when I headed to the screening as I hadn't seen the original, however with the plot and what I thought Refn's original film would deliver I was carrying an expectation of a rather exciting but downward spiralling story.
That plot is simple, and the statement "life spins out of control over the course of a week" makes you think that events are going to be going pretty wild, and this is where I feel that the film fell short for me and had its biggest issue, it never really got that wild. There are incidents and moments, but nothing really seems to be out of control and although you can tell from the story it should be it hardly affects the lead character and he seems to just give up on it all too easily.
While I was making my notes after the screening I wrote the following to remind me of how I felt about the main character:
He gets into a bad deal and seems to waste a lot of time when he should be trying to raise the money to save his own life, and he knows it. Sure he does sell some drugs, borrow some cash, steal from a buyer and ask his mum for cash, and to be fair he is waiting on a big deal, but he just does drugs, parties, sleeps and sits around watching television.
For me that summed up the issue with the film, it didn't really feel as though the main character was in the trouble that the story was reflecting. I struggled to feel anything for the character and his situation because he didn't seem to care that much about himself and although you knew that the pressure should be piling on him he didn't really seem to react to it.
What I expected was a little more escalation of the problems and the pressure he was facing, and more spinning out of control for the whole story. I did expect to feel much more for the character or feel that tension rising as the events escalated, and while it did start that way and begin to build rather slowly it just seemed to lose steam as the film went on and never pushed it any forward with any real conviction after that.
I do get the impression that you aren't supposed to totally connect with the character as you would normally in films because we're watching a loser and his world fall about him and I would expect him to make decisions that would end up in him digging himself further into his problems but not to the degree where it began to lose touch with the audience.
That said you do appreciate that events are somewhat out of his control and that he can't turn around his life, and the film isn't a disaster by any means, it's just a disappointment that it didn't deliver what I expected it would.
Apart from this feeling of falling short it does deliver a story that gets your attention, engages you with the characters and the events around them, and does keep you wondering where the events are going to go next.
There is a great feeling through the film that everyone is screwing our lead over in some way and it's never really confirmed apart from a voice on the phone and the closing scenes, the latter of which is the most surprising and on reflection was a really strong turn of the story. I liked these closing moments that felt like a betrayal but at the same time a somewhat justified sense of revenge.
The film does look good and there are some nice stylistic choices that help compound a feeling of losing control or of the sensual overload that our characters experience at certain moments. It looks good through the darker scenes of night shots, dark lockups and nightclubs and the director Luis Prieto and cinematographer Simon Dennis have delivered some great shots of the actors.
There's a good cast too and Richard Coyle is good as the pusher although it would have been good if he had given more feeling of his growing panic as the story had built more tension and he's strongly backed by Bronson Webb and Agyness Deyn.
The story plays out well as a strong thriller should do, but as I said it's lacking a stronger feeling of tension, weight and escalation to the events. You'll still find it entertaining but it could have had more impact if more had happened to the lead character and he'd tried more to get himself out of the situation.
There are some interesting threads in the story about betrayal and trust which develop well through the story and it presents a rather bleak view of his life. The film also looks good with the director and cinematographer bringing out the best in the locations and the actors.
While there are problems and it could have been more than it turned out, it's far from a bad film and still provides for an engaging story and a lighter thriller with some interesting characters.