The Antwerp Dolls (2015): New Vintage London Gangsters [Update]

Written and directed by Jake L. Reid (as Jake Reid) The Antwerp Dolls feels like a throw back to the 1980 cult classic The Long Good Friday…

The Antwerp Dolls: Courtney Winston and Jermaine Curtis Liburd

[Update] It should be pointed out that the “sound issues” covered in the review are from the online screener and will not be present on the general release DVD of The Antwerp Dolls. Jake Reid spoke with MikesFilmTalk.com and explained the problem, so viewers will not “see” these when viewing the film. We apologize for any misconceptions raised by our review. Thank you.

Written and directed by Jake L. Reid (as Jake Reid) The Antwerp Dolls feels like a throw back to the 1980 cult classic The Long Good Friday (starring a young Bob Hoskins, Helen Mirren and featuring a brief glimpse of pre-Remington Steele/James Bond actor Pearce Brosnan and a pre- Casualty Charlie  – Derek Thompson) With more than a nod and a wink to Guy Ritchie’s London underworld of colorful gangsters, this “new vintage” glimpse at crime in the capital is enjoyable if not a little disjointed.

In terms of tipping the hat to Ritchie, Reid uses a similar camera technique for filming actors shooting their weapons, a’la the 2008 film RocknRolla, where a small camera appears to be attached to the end of the gun for an extreme closeup of the actor firing the automatic rifle.

London gangsters aside, the plot, is for all intents and purposes a serious nod to all things Spaghetti Western, or to be more succinct, a variation on A Fistful of Dollars and its dividing two “families” to create havoc. While these villains do not kill each other off (Any further information is not forthcoming so watch the film.) there is a clear intention from a number of sides to do just that.

Tommy Callahan (Jason Wing) has made a deal with two brothers from Belgium who are taking great chunks of London real estate and they have attempted to pave the way with the local crime boss. Enter a group of lads, with inside information, who intercept the transaction causing all the parties to come unglued.

The first half of the film treads a little slowly as each player is introduced and backstories related. The Ferrino brothers, Ray and Max (Bruce Payne and Sean Cronin respectively) are showcased and their enforcer Marco, played with marvelous menace by Sebastien Foucan (Casino Royale, The Tournament) is shown as someone to be equally feared. 

Cally, aka Tommy Callahan (Wing), who appears to be a throw back to the days of “The Krays” a real “effing and blinding” type of mobster who may, or may not, be winding down his little empire, attempts to learn who has thrown a massive spanner in his works.

Jake Reid has managed to make a “low/no” budget film (the estimated production cost was £100,000  or $151,000) look very impressive. Using  guerrilla filming techniques and some special effects for gunshot wounds that look brilliant the film comes across quite well.

What Reid as writer does brilliantly  is to depict the mentality and personality of underworld characters. Their bluster, bravado and bullishness is almost overwhelming and each player in this crime thriller pointedly plays for the overkill factor, with the exception of the two “foreigners” the Ferrino brothers and the accountant.

American audiences might well be shocked at some of the language, the “C” word is really frowned upon within US shores, but the earthy coarseness of the patter is spot on in  representing the English “lower class” criminal fraternity.  The film features a bit more reality based brusqueness with its main characters and does not rely quite so much on what is becoming a sort of standardized exported British cinema “mockney.”

That said, there are stereotypes on offer,  for instance, Wing’s frozen visage; lips caught in a sort of half snarl, make his performance quite interesting and his delivery is pure “London barrow boy made good.”  There is a good cross-section of players, the posh totty accountant  Christy; who is a pure as the driven slush (played with cool conviction by Kate Marie Davies) and teeth-sucking Spacey (played with impressive authenticity by newcomer Jermaine Curtis Liburd) as well as “wide boy” Corey (Ashley R Woods).

At times the film does feel a little convoluted with too many twists and turns to take in. That said, the journey to the film’s conclusion is not a boring one and each character brings something to the table. As this is Reid’s maiden project, and one where Jake exceeds auteur status by also being credited as a stunt driver for the production, it is entertaining enough that one should keep an eye on this new filmmaker.

The Antwerp Dolls is a solid 3.5 out of 5 stars. There are a few issues with sound, with the score intruding in a couple of places and what seems to be ADR syncing problems.  Overall, the film keeps the viewer’s eyes glued to the screen and while some of the acting feels a little OTT, it does sort of fit the verse that Reid has created.  Keep an eye out for this one and give it a go.

Horizon: Science Fiction Web Series is Cracking Entertainment

Steven and Chloe see the ship

Paul Dudbridge is, in essence, the English Robert Rodriguez of science fiction webisodes with his cottage industry approach. Directing, co-writing, co-editing, producing and working as cinematographer on what is obviously a labour of love. The end result is Horizon, a 10 part web series (with the tagline: In 2015 Everything Changes) which follows the  journey of five people who are affected by the sudden appearance of spaceship over Bristol.  The series starts on 5 October, 2015 and from the first frame, the viewer is caught up in the events on screen.

Starring, Paul Tonkin, Simon Pierce (who also co-wrote the series along with Paul and Chris Marshfield), Kate Marie DaviesCassandra Charlick, Alicia Ancel, Kessie Bartlett and Jason Allen, the webisodes, that run from four to 10 minutes in length, look brilliant and the acting,  based upon a pre-screening of the first three episodes, is spot on. Combined with exceptional CGI effects this is compelling viewing. 

Each segment moves quickly and contains a “bit of business” from certain characters and a bit of action.  (There appears to be a “hidden” thread as well, keen eyed viewers will notice a small mark…) The  webisodes project a sense of realism, from the use of ITV real-life newscaster Ian Axton (who also played a newscaster for the superlative ITV drama Broadchurch) to the “everyman” characters we watch attempting to come to grips with the “invasion” and their efforts to escape the threat.

Other “bits” includes Davies’ character Nicole, after being helped from the wrecked car by Steven, she grabs her cell (mobile) phone and after checking it, leans close to Steven, peers closely at his mouth and asks, somewhat accusingly, “Have you been drinking?” Positively brilliant bit of business that had this viewer chuckling and nodding while acknowledging that if one were in Steven’s place, it would be so annoying from his point of view.

Later on, Dudbridge uses the cell phone as a scene enhancer and as a sign of just how much the smart phone has become an essential part of our lives. The  scene shows that these bits of modern technology control us as well.  In the same setting, on top of a carpark where Steven’s younger sister Katie is hanging with her hoodie mates watching the spaceship, when the alien craft defends itself against attacking aircraft, the device shows us what the aliens used; EMP.

This is science fiction presented on an intimate level yet it feels big. The airliner,  the escalation of events and  that huge alien spaceship hovering over Bristol. Entertainment that delivers enough impressive set pieces to raise goosebumps on the viewer.  After the spacecraft sets off the EMP blast there is a jet airliner that comes zooming into the frame, just over the fleeing hoodies.  The aircraft is so low that it causes the snotty Katie and big brother Steven to duck for cover. For such short blasts of entertainment this is a wonderful bit of business.

Steven, Dan, Chloe and Nicole set out to gather supplies, and Katie, in order to escape to the  country.  Despite the shortness of the episodes, the characters are clearly defined and their interactions with one another are revealing.

The cinematography is  spot on and, for once, the sound is perfect. The actors are not drowned out by the soundtrack and the “foley” effects do not override the action. The blend of ambient sound along with the dialogue is just right.

Horizon is cracking entertainment that leaves the viewer ready for more. Dudbridge has said there will be a second season if all goes according to plan. These type of shows are what the Internet could have been invented for. Slick, polished and feeling like a big budget production with some stand out acting from the cast, this is magic in a web series.

The cast of Horizon

Horizon starts 5 October and for more information about the show, the crew, the cast and the story head over to horizonwebseries.com. Like the tagline says, “In 2015 everything changes,” check out the series site and see why.

 

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