Review of "Plastic (DVD)"
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.
FILM ONLY REVIEWFour university students make their money by engaging in low-level blackmail and credit card fraud. But when they unwittingly steal from a dangerous European gangster, they get in way over their heads. With only two weeks to come up with two million pounds, they plan a diamond heist to pay off their debts.
Had I known before watching this film that director Julian Gilbey was responsible for the execrable “Rise of the Footsoldier”, I would probably have given it a miss. For a contemporary film, it seems like a cast-off from the Guy Ritchie cockney gangster caper sub-genre that ran out of steam a good fifteen years ago. It looks like all expense has been spared on the production. The flat lighting and lack of recognisable locations in the undoubtedly expensive locations of London and Miami make the production feel like a made-for-TV movie. Gilbey frequently falls into visual cliché. Every gunshot, car flip and glimpse of nipple is shot in orgiastic slow-motion, which suggests the director still has a teenage fascination with violence and breasts. The editing is strangely slack, so the whole film lacks the speed and pizazz required to make this kind of nonsense work. The cons too often rely on the kind of bad wigs, obviously stick-on beards and dodgy accents that would struggle to fool all but the dimmest of dimwits. But luckily for the characters, those are the only kind of people they every seem to meet. The clumsily-handled, action-heavy finale seems beyond the director’s reach and feels tacked-on.The storytelling is weak. The plotting is convoluted but predictable and powered by coincidence – all the way through, I couldn’t help but think of better examples of genre movies. The production borrows heavily but not subtly from all of them. But it does so in such a way that both the script and the characters seem utterly witless. In spite of the claims that the film is based on a true story (although I couldn’t find any evidence to back this up), it feels thoroughly implausible. The filmmakers are determined to paint the conmen as heroes, but their schemes are born of greed rather than honour. It’s not as though they are trying to get their own back on a heartless villain or corporation. As a result, the entire production merely manages to glorify criminal behaviour. Matters aren’t helped by an almost total absence of character development, which makes it impossible to understand the protagonists’ motivations or to give a damn about what happens to any of them.
I was absolutely appalled by the treatment of women in this film. They are objectified by the characters, the script and the camera alike. Most female characters are either prostitutes, strippers or young women of easy virtue. In one scene, two young women snog each other and take their tops off purely for the pleasure of one of the hateful male leads, in a blatant example of teenage wish fulfilment. Gilbey and co leer over the ample curves of the female lead, clad in a variety of figure-hugging and skimpy outfits, while trips to strip clubs and topless beaches abound. The really sad thing is that this is so clearly a low-budget movie that the actresses involved probably won’t even have been paid well for displaying their assets. And casting one woman as a high-ranking police officer doesn’t make up for any of it. Sadly the 15 certificate means that the sweaty-palmed twelve to fourteen year-old boys desperate to see boobs and guns who would love this, won’t be able to see it legally.The tone is resolutely smug, which makes the characters and their shenanigans even more unbearable. It doesn’t help that the script is stilted and the performances are iffy to indifferent. The director’s comic and dramatic timing is sorely lacking, which leads to some clanging shifts of mood. The pacing is oddly sluggish in parts and the final twenty minutes is overstuffed but underpowered. To me, the hundred-and-two-minute running-time felt nearly endless.
The screenplay by Gilbey, his brother Will, “Bonded By Blood” writer Sacha Bennett and Chris Howard is marked by a dearth of likeable characters. For a heist/con artist movie to work, the audience needs to relate to the protagonists. The writers clearly think they have written a “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” for millennials. But this isn’t a bunch of cheeky chappies ripping off criminals and getting into a series of scrapes, as they get in over their heads. Instead, the core group is made up of four cynical shysters stealing from random people for no apparent reason. Their lack of motivation is one of the script’s key problems. The students aren’t forced into pulling scams as a last resort. Clumsy references to the current economic climate and jobs market aren’t reason enough. They are just doing it because they can. The hero (if he can be called that), even lies to his love interest about having a terminally ill brother, in an attempt to make her more sympathetic to him and his schemes. The group aren’t exactly quiet about their activities, so it comes as no surprise when they fall foul of a bigger, badder fish. The various scams and heists aren’t as clever as the writers think because every scheme hinges on the victims making blindingly obvious errors of judgement. The shift into transatlantic jewel heist, complete with hotel shootouts and double-crosses signals a change from adolescent wish fulfilment to nonsensical farce. Perhaps it comes as no surprise that I was willing the villains on.The characterisation is dreadful. I think we’re meant to like Sam because he dares to break the law and uses his smarts for financial game. But he’s a liar and a thief without any reasonable motivation, so I found him entirely unsympathetic. Fordy is very much in the traditional loyal sidekick mould. He unquestioningly does whatever his best friend asks and has little to no personality of his own. Yatesy is written as a relentlessly resentful and selfish egotist. He’s so thoroughly unpleasant that I couldn’t fathom why Sam would want him on his team. Rafa is the least well-developed of the central quartet. He’s a gormless service station cashier-cum-plot device, whose position allows him to skim customers’ credit cards. For an ostensibly smart young woman, Frankie is remarkably easily manipulated. By and large she’s just a skimpily-dressed patsy. Marcel is a generic Euro-villain with a sadistic streak and a seemingly endless supply of henchmen, not to mention a totally predictable way of operating. The dialogue is stilted and sounds as though it is made up from half-remembered lines from better films.
Ed Speleers is bland and a peculiar shade of orange as Sam. He’s too smug to be likeable and fails to convince as a criminal mastermind. I usually like Will Poulter, who plays Fordy, but he isn’t well-served by a script that has him playing a two-dimensional wheeler-dealer with all the moral complexity of Donald Trump. Alfie Allen is absolutely loathsome as Yatesey. I don’t think much of him as an actor anyway, but I found him utterly repellent because his range is limited to smarmy and sleazy on an almost intergalactic scale. Sebastian De Souza is meant to provide the comic relief as the numptyish Rafa, but his timing (and the script) aren’t good enough. As Frankie, former “Hollyoaks” actress Emma Rigby never gets the chance to rise above eye candy status. She spends most of her time pouting and batting her false eyelashes while poured into a variety of barely-there swimming costumes. Thomas Kretschmann at least has presence as bad guy Marcel, although he isn’t done any favours by the terrible script.The original music by Chad Hobson is synth-heavy with a lot of electric guitar and drum machine, occasionally interspersed with twanging percussion and burring strings. It isn’t very memorable. The other soundtrack choices include a couple of tracks from electronic artist Elliphant, “God Won’t Save You Now” by former Sugababe Amelle Berrabah, grime track “Heart Attack” by Young Squage and “Here We Go” by The Tender Box. It suits the style of the film, but I wouldn’t bother listening to it as a soundtrack album.
I despised everything about “Plastic”, but I suppose the title is apt, as it describes everything from the writing to the acting. I thought the direction was amateurish, while the writing was lazy and formulaic and betrayed nothing of its supposedly true origins. The performances were teen soap opera quality in the main. I think the film would have been much better if it had been played for laughs; the it would at least have been entertaining brain candy. But with the filmmakers taking everything so seriously, it’s charmless, casually sexist drivel. It’s definitely one to avoid.
Product Information : Plastic (DVD)
Manufacturer's product description
DVD Region: DVD
Classification: 15 years and over
Video Category: Feature Film
Actor(s): Ed Speleers, Alfie Allen, Will Poulter, Mem Ferda, Emma Rigby
Production Year: 2014
Director(s): Julian Gilbey
Listed on Ciao since: 06/09/2017