DVD region 2. Crabtree Films.
start by saying that I know how hard it is to make a film in Britain.
Financing from public funding bodies is often given out more on
the basis of personal connections rather than talent or interesting
ideas, private funding is even harder to obtain and genre films
are still sneered at to a large extent. Shooting on a zero budget,
with cash scraped together from various sources, favours called
in and a largely unpaid cast and crew comes with it’s own
issues. So to complete a feature film and get it released –
that’s an achievement itself. I’m happy to cut people
a bit of slack when they’ve struggled to make their movie.
None of that alters the fact that if a film is crap, it’s
crap, whether it cost $10,000 or $100 million. And while you might
indulge a student film’s amateur-hour style at private screenings,
festivals etc, when the film is a commercial release you have
to judge it with the same critical eye as you would anything else.
And so we come to Patrol Men, definitely at the
no-budget end of things. A film apparently made by a pair of students
(of whom more later) for a pittance, this is the story of a small
British island where life is still run on feudal grounds, with
the Mayor (Jonathon Hanslon) controlling the population with the
Patrol Men of the title – a group of sinister figures in
gasmasks who enforce a strict curfew on the residents. The excuse
for this is the alleged murderer who is loose on the island, and
who we see in an impressively moody opening sequence murdering
what the credits refer to as a ‘topless chick’. Unfortunately,
this has nothing to do with the rest of the film, and it's all
downhill from hereon in..
Schoolgirl Alex (Chloe Van Hardin) decides to investigate the
story further after rebellious outsider Jess (Josh Golga) vanishes,
and teams up with ridiculously foul-mouthed and angry token black
youth Okie (Anthony Abuah) to find out the truth behind the legend
and awaken the islanders to what is really going on.
Not that you’ll really give a damn how any of that turns
out. The story grinds along slowly, and the acting ranges from
poor to really poor, not helped by some painfully forced dialogue
and one-dimensional characters. A sub-plot involving an off-island
investigator and the local schoolteacher is crow-barred in and
then thrown aside for no good reason, and Abuah – who seems
to communicate mostly in variations of ‘fuck’ –
is as unappealing a hero character as you’ll ever see. Van
Hardin tries, but for the most part gives a flat, one-dimensional
performance, though she's Award material compared to the guy playing
her father. Only Hanslon, as the despotic Mayor, comes close to
a full-blooded bit of acting.
Technically, the film is poor – the sound is all over the
place, which is often the problem with amateur films, but increasingly
less excusable given modern technology, and while I’d like
to think the wobbly camerawork is a stylistic affectation, I suspect
otherwise. The main problem though, is the pacing – or lack
of it. This is a very slow film, and when things do happen,
they are botched – the uprising against the Patrol men at
the end is cringeworthy. And just why the soundtrack needs so
many whiney songs is anyone’s guess.
It’s a shame, because there are some decent ideas –
albeit ones that are cribbed from other movies like The
Wicker Man and The Crazies – and
the title characters are pretty sinister. But any interesting
concepts here are buried beneath the shoddiness of the final film.
The only extra here is an interview with / by the two directors,
David Campion and Ben Simpson, who come across as giggling indieboy
hipsters and have a rambling chat about the apparently rubbish
home movies that they’d previously made. If this is a step
up, fair enough. But I’d suggest they have a lot to learn
before they should be releasing films for the unsuspecting to
buy while shopping in Asda.
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