Thursday, August 8, 2013

Tower Block

I don’t exactly remember where it was that I read an article about Tower Block, a British thriller released in 2012, but it prompted me to track down a copy of it to check out. Why more movies from the UK aren’t given a wide release in the US is beyond me. This one was pretty damned good.

A few months after a man was beaten to death in their hallway, the tenants of a rundown and nearly abandoned apartment building find themselves the target of a sniper who has them pinned down and unable to escape.
There have been plenty of movies where someone, or multiple people, are trapped or held hostage by a mysterious sniper made over the years (Phonebooth, Two Minute Warning, Dirty Harry), but in the case of Tower Block the plot device works pretty damned well. The script by James Moran (Torchwood, Doctor Who, Severance, Cockneys vs. Zombies) is at times smartly written and suspenseful with a great cast of fleshed out characters, some likable and some not.

The main actors are all pretty fantastic. Sheridan Smith plays the alpha female, Becky, with a great deal of courage and heart. I loved how her character refused to be bullied or pushed around by some of the other tenants of less reputable status and rallied the survivors together. Jack O’Connell plays drug dealer Kurtis who also demands cash from the tenants as a protection fee. He pulls off the part extremely well, coming off at first as a tough guy who later begins to break down into an insecure little twat as the film rolls on. Still, you have to root for him. He’s got moxie. Veteran actor Ralph Brown (Alien³, The Crying Game, Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace) is pretty awesome as the old timer of the bunch, Neville. He refused to take shit from anyone and did whatever it took to protect his wife. Out of all the major players, I enjoyed the performance of Russell Tovey (Being Human UK) the most. His recovering alcoholic with a crush on Becky is both relatable and sympathetic. He’s also extremely naturalistic so I bought into his role immediately. The rest of the cast is fine as well, but most don’t get a whole lot of screentime since a lot are wiped out in the first attack.
Directors James Nunn and Ronnie Thompson show off a modicum of style and a refreshing focus on the story and performances. Their inexperience shows at times when things get hectic, but for the most part they skate through reasonably unscathed. They know when to rely on the actors to sell a scene instead of showing exactly what’s going on. It’s a smart and economical approach to what is a very low budget flick. I don’t think they pulled off the big reveal successfully since we never got a good look at the participant(s) involved over the course of the film.

The above average acting and directorial choices aside, the script at times wanders into ridiculous territory for no reason. There are times where the characters do incredibly stupid things just to move the story along and nothing more. Example – there’s a sniper taking people out from the top floor of a neighboring apartment building. So let’s go up to the roof and attempt to dangle over the side and lower ourselves down to the ground. Sure it’s happening on the far side of the building out of the sniper’s sight, but he definitely can see people running around on the roof and tossing things over the side. You think it’s not going to catch his attention? This dude saw someone sitting fifteen feet away from a window covered by a curtain and scored a head shot. Another example is when people decide to just run out the front door hoping for the best. Want to guess how that plan worked out? One of my biggest gripes has to do with how one character manages to utilize the sniper to take out two troublemakers among the survivors. When you see it happen your eyes will roll. The ultimate motivation behind the sniper’s actions is also weak and kind of dumb. When the big reveal went down I screamed at the screen “Grow the fuck up!”
None of these issues are a complete deal breaker. Like I said earlier, the movie is suspenseful and gripping. There’s just a lot of rookie mistakes and dumb shit going on at times. When you look at the movie as a whole the good outweighs the bad and I can honestly say that I enjoyed Tower Block. It’s not the best movie to ever come out of the UK, but it’s pretty good in its own right. I recommend it.

3 out of 5

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