“Mike Leigh meets The Sopranos” is the not entirely inaccurate production-notes shorthand for this British kitchen-sink drama, which stars real-life father and son Bob and Robin Hill as Bill and Karl, middle-management-type sectional chieftains of a crime family struggling to keep their business together as, over the course of a hectic week, infighting and hazy rumors of a police informant in their midst threaten to unravel it completely.
Simpleton Karl (above right, a sort of scruffy, neutered, blue-collar
cousin of John Oliver, physically at least) suffers
his father’s serial disrespect and baiting, and doesn’t do much about it. But when he brings home pregnant
girlfriend Valda (Kerry Peacock), it really doesn’t go over well with either of
his already frazzled parents, including mom Maggie (Julia Deakin). As they press him to cut her lose, Karl’s spine stiffens, coinciding with a series of decisions by Bill to “drain the swamp,” as it were, and methodically eliminate long-time henchmen and allies who might be the potential mole.
Co-written and directed by Ben Wheatley, Down Terrace starts off slow,
impaired by impenetrably thick accents and a misguided, unnecessarily
claustrophobic visual scheme. Opening things up a bit — with wider shots to better give a sense of the movie’s drab domestic settings, which serve as ironic counterpoint to its criminal mischief — would have done small wonders for the movie. Still, for fans of certain British TV crime serials, and particularly those schooled in the cinema of Shane Meadows, Down Terrace eventually takes hold as a passable
slice of darkly humorous, stakes-free entertainment — its narrative
pivots, in which ratcheted-up paranoia gets seriocomically spun off in
homicidal directions, employed in purely functional fashion, against a
backdrop of colorful familial bickering. If anything about this domestic
brood rings true, though, seek counseling immediately. For more information on the film, click here. (Magnet, unrated, 89 minutes)