RAINDANCE 2014 DAY 2 | AB NEGATIVE + MIKE (short film)

AB NEGATIVE

DIRECTOR(S): NEIL HORNER WRITER(S): ALLEN BEEVER, NEIL HORNER | CAST:VINCENT REGAN, ROGER ASHTON-GRIFFITHS, ROBERT CAVANAH

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Two hitmen become the subject of a sadistic game after waking up in the back of a truck, drugged and confused. – Raindance.org 

The first thing that’s apparent about AB Negative is that it’s an aesthetically attractive film; DOP Nicolas Schroder’s striking monochromatic shots are synonymous with stream of British gangland films, commonly attributed to, and pioneered by, British auteurs Guy Ritchie and Matthew Vaughn. The second is composer David William Hearn’s impressively produced score.
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Two contract killers, a lawyer, a gangster out for blood, a sadistic eastern-european blonde and a  missing white bag full of money, sets the bar for a series of paranoia, back-stabbing and an array of twists and turns in which characters attempt to outsmart and kill each other.
 In the underworld of  AB Negative most of the sinister goings on doesn’t take place on the inner city streets of London, but in the back of a grim moving van (although, how happy can the back of a van really be?).
It’s a brave effort, that attempts to highlight an increasingly volatile scenario by setting a majority of the film in the claustrophobic space. Things get dark in the locked container, when all three (the lawyer and two killers), seemingly in the same boat,  unfolds into something more fatal.  When two wake up to find the third mysteriously murdered it quickly becomes clear that they’re not on a ‘job’ they are the job. Predictably, both begin to cry foul of the each other, it’s a game of kill or be killed, and all under the cold steely eye of a female assassin.
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Contextually lending itself to films such as ‘Sexy Beast’, ‘The Usual Suspects’ and ‘Rock’N’Rolla’ (- Raindance.org), AB Negative manages to emulate the sharp, witty dialogue of all three but fails to do it well. You can only commend Director and co-writer, Neil Horner, for trying. He’s clearly a fan of the genre and it shows. However what these films and many others before it have done, is bring something to the table, raised the bar or, at best, matched it.
AB Negative is a good effort, but the ropey dialogue; “super-fucking-nova” cries out a Stephen Marcus’s (Lock, Stock) large cockney gangster – and jarring script – Vincent Regan (the older, and seemingly more calculated killer) appears to be channelling Taken’s Bryan Mills – is contrived. Otherwise where it’s clearly supposed to be silly (Seb Castang‘s handsome yet arrogant role as one of two killers with a price on his head who makes up words he thinks are real), the script delivers some funny and surprisingly endearing lines. Csilla Barath-Bastaic, is fantastic as the crazy-eyed deadly assassin and almost a saving grace for a film with surface lead characters and unattended back story.
‘AB Negative’ is a bold, gritty thriller that celebrates the strong tradition of the British gangster film.

Ultimately impressively shot, composed and acted, AB Negative has all the ingredients of how to shoot film on a micro-budget, and do it relatively well. However it falls short of being truly unique and brilliant due to plot holes and banal dialogue. What it does do, is remind the audience of Britain’s stronghold in this particular genre by clearly drawing on familiar traits; Neil Horner is clearly a fan of British gangster films;  AB Negative is like an ode to them and good one at that. His next film will probably be stronger in all aspects, when he finds his own voice in one of the most successful and deceptively linear genres in British film industry. I wish him all the best.

 MIKE (Short film)

mike

DIR: PETROS SILVESTROS WRITER(S): AJ RILEY | CASTLUCIAN CHARLES COLLIER, LOUISE BRECKON-RICHARDS, STEPHEN GUY DALTRY

Mike, a sulky teenager has to do a boring job – to take his little brother Jack to the hairdresser. Waiting for him in the car, Mike starts to get worried when Jack takes too long to return so he decides to go and look for him. – raindance.org

8 minutes of watching Mike, was satisfying(-ly) unsatisfying. The beauty and difficulty of a short is capturing so much in little time, all whilst attempting to engage the audience and convey a precise emotion that feature films have the luxury of exploring and dissecting over 100 minutes more. The beginning, middle and the end have to be concise and yet clarity within two or three minutes given to each act is a must. Mike does all of this. You’ll want to see more and it could, if intended by the filmmakers, be stretched out to a full length indie. It’s a beautifully realised film (thanks to Nikos Andritsakis handy work) under the eerie bluish-grey tones easily equated to the supernatural, death and a sort of twilight zone. It’s also still. Smooth tracking shots, but mostly clean, single point-and-shoot simplicity.

But then, perhaps it wouldn’t be nearly as devastating. The themes of sudden loss and haunting social commentary on the reality of human fragility and existence; taking loved ones for granted; society’s compartmentalising of those suffering from mental illnesses and failure to recognise those who are suffering under our noses, is all so fleeting, but the consequences are lasting. It’s no surprise that it’s been picked up for numerous festivals and awarded justly.

Lucian Charles Collier is a fantastic young British talent. His impressively natural and instantly likable on-screen approach, as the titular character, is reminiscent of fast-rising Brit star Jack O’Connell.

OFFICIAL SELECTION OF 22nd RAINDANCE 2014

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