4.3.2.1.(DVD)

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4.3.2.1.(DVD)

From Noel Clarke, writer of KIDULTHOOD and writer/director of ADULTHOOD comes 4.3.2.1., a thriller starring Emma Roberts (HOTEL FOR DOGS) as a lowly s...

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Review of "4.3.2.1.(DVD)"

published 05/10/2011 | afy9mab
Member since : 11/07/2000
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All of my DVD reviews are film only, so do not include pricing information. If you have time, please read and rate my Batman V Superman review.
Good
Pro It's a ballsy attempt at a British action movie.
Cons Derivative plotting and a lack of proper character development.
very helpful
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"Zeroes to Heroes"

Jo is stuck in a dead-end job at a convenience store. Meanwhile her friend Cassandra is flying out to New York to meet her internet boyfriend, feisty Kerrys is crusading for female liberation and Shannon is depressed and close to taking her own life. But a chance encounter with some diamond thieves sets all of their lives on a collision course. These four girls will have three days they will never forget, assuming they survive…

Noel Clarke and fellow director Mark Davis took a lot of flak for this film upon release, but I really don’t think it is half as bad as some would have you believe. Many have slated the directors for aping Hollywood’s style. Personally I think Clarke and Davis should be applauded for thinking outside the box. After all, British cinema is best known for provincial, middle-class comedies and costume dramas. Isn’t it about time someone tried to play our LA cousins at their own game? It is an example of disposable brain candy that works best of you don’t think about it too hard.

Visually the production is unprepossessing. It is shot on digital video in largely anonymous locations. The few hints of glamour come from posh totty Cassandra’s lifestyle, as illustrated by her swanky flat and trip to New York. Otherwise, the majority of locales wouldn’t look out of place in an episode of “Eastenders”. Split-screen fades show how the main protagonists’ lives differ and intersect. Montages are used in a similar fashion. At the end of one story thread, the directors rewind and restart the action from another perspective, thus drip-feeding information to the audience. Each separate story is prefaced by the main character’s name, the date and time stamps, so you can keep a handle on where each episode fits in the story. But the episodic structure means that the production doesn’t make much sense until the final reel, which may be why the directors came in for so much stick. The diamond heist that draws all the narrative threads together is introduced through a series of in-camera news reports. However, it arrives relatively late in the narrative and thus feels contrived. The budget doesn’t stretch to huge action set-pieces, so the petty hoodlums of the piece and the limited gunplay are somewhat underwhelming. The biggest action sequence is more “Casualty” than “Carlito’s Way”. But what it lacks in scope, it makes up for in ambition, which I think is why I liked it. It says something about Clarke and Co’s powers of persuasion that they have performances from the likes of Kevin Smith, Mandy Patinkin and rapper-turned-actress Eve. Violence is often played for laughs, while there is some gratuitous, but oddly tasteful nudity and a smattering of comedy thrown into a sex scene. The pacing is frenetic throughout, as the directors rush to tie all the different plot strands together. Yet it is slightly overlong at a-hundred-and-seventeen minutes.

The screenplay by Clarke wears its influences on its sleeve. Admittedly the format is derivative. The multi-part story seen from different perspectives is a mash-up of Tarantino and Doug Liman’s “Go”. The narrative requires a hell of a lot of coincidences to tie the whole thing together. It is episodic and there is little space for character development. The fast-talking, wise-cracking heroines seem out of place in a London setting. The players are drawn in broad strokes and if you don’t warm to them at the outset, you probably won’t enjoy the rest of the film. But it’s nice to see an action movie where the leads are all female. Their personal issues (difficult family lives, self-harm, secrets, sibling rivalry, feelings of displacement and isolation) feel like a series of soap opera hot topics. Meanwhile a slinky criminal mastermind appears to have been shipped in from a different film entirely. There is some attempt at character development, even if the friendship group as a whole seems highly unlikely. The whole thing plays out as something of a romp and there are frequent dashes of humour to stop the project from looking like it takes itself too seriously.

The characterisation is limited by the sheer number of main protagonists, all of whom have families and associates that also need to be introduced. Jo is the every-girl protagonist, who is swept along by events. She struggles with sibling rivalry with her spoilt stepsister. Shannon is introverted, depressed and hiding a huge secret, which she can’t cope with alone, thanks to an alcoholic father and an absent mother. Kerrys subverts her anger about not belonging by being mouthy and taking out her frustrations on pretty much every man she meets. She also happens to be gay. Cassandra is rich, beautiful and talented but naïve about the ways of the world. She doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the group and it’s unclear how they became friends. The girls’ families are as messed up as they are – Shannon and Jo’s parents are divorced, Kerrys’ dad isn’t her biological father, although he loves her as though she was and Cassandra’s parents spend all their time bickering. Kerrys also has a cocky wannabe gangster half-brother, who is little more than a plot device. The baddies include a slinky female criminal mastermind and a bunch of interchangeable petty crims, who appear to be in over their heads. The dialogue is pretty sweary and features lots of recognisable street slang, so sounds appropriate.

Emma Roberts is bland as Joanne and spends much of her screen-time rambling. Tamsin Egerton is posh, polished and leggy as Cassandra, but lacks a deeper level of characterisation. Shanika Warren-Markland plays Kerrys as coarse, hard as nails and mixed up by her daddy issues and anger management difficulties. Ophelia Lovibond is fluttery and looks like a deer caught in the headlights as the quiet, often ignored graffiti artist. Michelle Ryan is good value as ass-kicking, gun-toting, black-clad criminal mastermind Kelly, even if she seems to be in the wrong film. Ben Miller and Camille Coduri have decent argumentative chemistry with each other as Cassandra’s parents. Sean Pertwee is scruffy and emotionally messy as Shannon’s father, who has all but given up. Gregg Chillin is taking obvious delight in being a dick as Kerrys’ nasty half-brother, while director Noel Clarke is swaggering and smug as freeloading shop manager Tee. Also look out for Kevin Smith as a voluble traveller, Eve as an unlikely ally and Mandy Patinkin as a snotty maestro.

The original music by Adam Lewis and Barnaby Robson favours an urban sound. So there are dark soundscapes, the sounds of locks being drawn back, rewinding strings for the characters going home, heartbeat percussion and alarm clocks ringing every time the action spools back and so on. But it struggles to be heard amongst the other soundtrack choices that include contributions from Adam Deacon and Bashy, who both feature as actors in the movie, along with tracks by Bodyrox, Eliza Doolittle and Kerry Leathem. UK grime isn’t really my cup of tea, but I can see how it would all hold together as a standalone album.

“4.3.2.1.” is a derivative low-budget action movie that will no doubt act as a calling card for directors Clarke and Davis when they follow the urge to head out to Los Angeles. The direction is confident, but the writing is plagued by unoriginality and the performances as good are as you can expect with the material to hand. I rather enjoyed it, as the heroines were a gutsy bunch, even if they spent far too much time hanging around in their underwear. As a whole, I think it will look better on the small screen, where teenage boys will no doubt spend hours perfecting their freeze-frame technique to ogle the undeniably pretty girls.

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Comments on this review

  • jonathanb published 15/11/2011
    Excellent review. When it was first being publicised I thought the film sounded interesting rather than good and your review seems to bear that out. The cast is impressive, but it sounds as though Michelle Ryan is playing a similar character to the one she played as a thief in Dr Who. That's no bad thing though, as she was really good. In fact I'd have liked her to become a "proper" sidekick on that show rather than head off in a flying bus (as you do).
  • bryspy published 08/10/2011
    Very well reviewed! ;~))
  • MrBrightside1987 published 07/10/2011
    Excellent review
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Product Information : 4.3.2.1.(DVD)

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From Noel Clarke, writer of KIDULTHOOD and writer/director of ADULTHOOD comes 4.3.2.1., a thriller starring Emma Roberts (HOTEL FOR DOGS) as a lowly supermarket check-out girl who stumbles upon a group of thieves who are out to pull off the perfect diamond heist.

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