Sunday, October 17, 2010

Movie with Abe: Down Terrace

Down Terrace
Directed by Ben Wheatley
Released October 15, 2010

Some films have large casts where learning the names of some of the more minor characters isn’t advisable or even possible. That’s often the case when it comes to gangster movies, as well as mob TV shows like the classic and universally-acclaimed “The Sopranos.” And then there’s “Down Terrace,” a quiet British film about a family deeply immersed in criminal activity that appears alarmingly peaceful at the start. It’s the kind of film which doesn’t take a sudden dive into violent territory; rather, it slowly and unsuspectingly immerses its viewers in the bizarre lifestyle of one seemingly normal British clan.

“Down Terrace” is a tiny little movie that lives in its own little world. At the start, Karl is released from prison and arrives home with his father Bill. From then on, hardly any of the film’s scenes take place outside their home. Multiple individuals stop over to say hello or to be interrogated regarding their complicity in informing to the police, and if any scenes do take place outdoors, they’re populated by only one or two people. This is a film about people with considerable reach and influence due to their mob ties, yet their world seems almost impossibly small.

That feeling of being quarantined works entirely in the film’s favor, providing an unparalleled opportunity to truly get to know these characters. In an unusual scenario, real-life father and son Robert and Robin Hill play Bill and Karl, affording an added dimension to their relationship only evident if the fact is known before watching the film. In reality, Karl likely isn’t a loose cannon prone to obsessive, violent outbursts, and Bill isn’t an unfriendly curmudgeon unwilling to recognize his son’s achievements. Yet that’s part of the brilliance of this inspired pairing, which gives them a fun opportunity to craft a fictional family.

“Down Terrace” fluctuates between quiet, almost mundane conversations and sudden, shocking expressions of hatred and violence. The subtle shift in gears is expertly done, and the film has a tone all its own. Some will find themselves hopelessly bored by the film’s tiptoe-like pacing, while others will be immersed in the unique experience. By its end, the extraordinarily-acted “Down Terrace” has become a fascinating social commentary with plenty of dry humor presented and compelling dynamics explored along the way. It’s an utterly worthwhile and decidedly incomparable crime comedy that wisely and bravely doesn’t allow itself to be put into any box.


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