A great British bone-chiller

Timothy Barber
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Cert: 18
Rating: *****

WELL, here’s something unusual. A nerve-shredding British thriller that’s perfectly acted, brutally effective in its plotting and script and completely gripping. Director Ben Wheatley may have put it together with very little budget, but it has “instant classic” written all over it.

Neil Maskell (Football Factory) plays Jay, an ex-squaddie trying to make ends meet on a London council estate where he lives with his wife Shel (Myanna Burning) and their young son. His old army mate Gal (craggy faced Irish actor Michael Smiley) comes round with his mysterious girlfriend Fiona for a dinner party, which turns out to be a seriously tense affair. Jay and Gal, it emerges, are hit men, and it’s time for them to get out there and earning.

That’s just the set-up, but even these scenes are depicted with such nuance and depth of character that you realise you’re in for something rather different from your conventional thriller. You just don’t realise how different until things start taking some extraordinarily sinister, possibly occult turns. To say more would be to spoil the delicious surprise turns the film takes, but the tensions and the violence get ratcheted up to almost unbearable levels, while Wheatley drags you in deeper and deeper. You won’t look at a hammer in quite the same way again.

This is a vicious horror-thriller, but one that is filled with more nuance and intelligence, not to mention very dark humour, than anything you’ll normally find in Hollywood. It’s mysterious too, and will reward repeat viewings. Expect big things from Wheatley (this is just his second film), and make sure you catch this while it’s showing.