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Released 22 June 2012
Director Alex Pillai

Ashley Chin, Jason Maza, Ashley Madekwe, Michael Maris, Adam Deacon, David Harewood, Letitia Wright, Shanika Warren-Markland

Ashley Chin, Michael Kyei, Michael Maris, Adrian Scott

John Adams, Danny Donnelly, Jason Maza
Origin United Kingdom
Running Time 86 minutes
Genre Action, drama
Rating 15A

Thick as thieves!

British “Youth” cinema is apparently on something of a revival at the moment. Films like Kidulthood and its follow-up Adulthood did respectable business and with the popularity of the “Grime” music scene there’s plenty of acts who want to take a shot at being movie stars. Of course it doesn’t always work out too well.

Last year Tulisa Contostavlos of N-Dubz had a brief role in Demons Never Die, a crass piece of nonsense that was one of the most unintentionally funny films of last year. One of the only positives from that disaster was the performance of Jason Maza and he features here again, as well as taking a producer credit. He plays Mannie, who is part of a gang of armed robbers along with Tyson (Ashley Chin) and Jason (Michael Maris), who are both among the scriptwriters.

The film opens with a pretty nicely executed heist scene in an apartment block. The gang’s speciality is to gain access to apartments of wealthy playboys through their female friends led by vampish chav Davina (Anna Nightingale). For some reason these playboys all seem to have a lots of cash on the premises and the lads help themselves. After the heist the boys and girls bling up and go celebrating in the clubs. However the next morning we see Tyson’s responsible side as he rushes home to take his sister Nyla (Letitia Wright) to school.

We learn that they were abandoned by their alcoholic, gambling addicted mother and Tyson had to turn to a life of crime to provide for them and pay off their mother’s debts. Tyson is a surly type, but he reveals a more sensitive side when he meets Tia (Ashley Madekwe). Tia is a cousin of Davina and though she’s from a wealthy, middle-class background, she’s moving in with her cousin while she’s studying in the nearby college. The brash, aggressive Jason makes a move on her but she and Tyson strike up a relationship, much to the chagrin of the jealous Davina.

Everyone’s got their own back-story where they are victims in one way or another, hence the title of the film. Tyson and Nyla are victims of their mother’s neglect and Mannie is the victim of a bullying brother. Jason is the victim of rival gangs who are threatening his life. Even Tia is the victim of an ex-boyfriend who’s constantly harassing her. To make things even worse for poor Tia, the boyfriend looks like a younger version of James Blunt. Meanwhile Tyson is desperate for “one last big job” so he can pay off his debts and leave the life of crime.

For such a short film at only eighty-six minutes, there is a hell of a lot going on here. You genuinely wonder how the director Alex Pillai will tie up all the various subplots and in the end he has to resort to a confusingly brief montage, complete with voiceover, to get everything done. In truth the ending is not the only thing that’s amateurish about the production, the script with its stilted dialogue is weak and most of the acting is of a pretty low standard too.

That said, unlike the truly rancid Demons Never Die, its heart is at least in the right place and there are reasonably promising performances from Chin, Wright and Maza. You couldn’t honestly say it’s a good film, at times it plays like a bad episode of Hollyoaks, but there are certainly worse films in the British ‘Urban’ cannon.

- Jim O’Connor