Twenty8K (Cert 15)
1 Disc (Distributor Cine Britannia / Showbox Media) Running Time: 102 minutes approx.
As London is in preparation for the Olympics, a teenager is shot outside an East London nightclub, with circumstantial evidence and eye witness accounts leading to the arrest of Vipon Jani (Sebastian Nanena). His elder sister, fashion executive Deeva (Parminder Nagra) returns from Paris to support her brother, believing him to be innocent despite Vipon’s own reluctance to name the real culprit.
Deeva takes it upon herself to investigate the crime and prove her brother’s innocence, uncovering a web of deceit and corruption in the process.
With recent London based crime movies seemingly the exclusive property of cheeky cockney geezers charming their way in and out of trouble, it is somewhat refreshing to see our nation’s capital to play host to a taut thriller.
It comes from the pen of Paul Abbott, the creator of cult TV hit Shameless, and Jimmy Dowdall and is directed by David Kew and Neil Thompson, both of whom have years of experience in TV and documentary making. For them this is their first major big screen outing and while it is a modest budget affair, it strives to hold its head high above its means, only to deliver a solid if fairly by-the-numbers effort with more of a TV movie feel than a big screen outing.
Falsely accused of shooting fellow Twenty8K member Pete (Jack Bence), himself a suspected grass, Vipon keeps quiet out of loyalty to the gang. With the help of youth worker and former gang member Clint O’Connor (Jonas Armstrong), Deeva uncovers a number of connections between the gang and the recent shooting of a pregnant woman during a shoot out. Playing a pivotal role is Vipon’s girlfriend Sally (Kaya Scoderlario), a beautician by day and a prostitute by night with a roll call of very important people in her clientele.
This lead brings DCI Stone (Stephen Dillane) into the picture, a corrupt police officer who has a habit of making obstacles for those he serves disappear. Serving as a further distraction is unhinged gang member Tony (Michael Socha) who is directly involved in Pete’s death, his croupier-cum-hooker mother Francesca (Kierston Wareing), sneaky drug dealer Ricky Shah (Gregg Chillin) who is sleeping with Tony’s girlfriend Andrea (Nichola Burley) and you have one very convoluted web of intrigue for Deeva to uncover.
It is also sadly quite a familiar web with local councillors, high ranking police officers and Government ministers among the corrupt and decadent lot abusing their positions of power to hide their indulgences and advance their careers. With the Olympic theme slipped quietly into the plot then left unmentioned again until the very end, one may wonder if this was planned as a timely cash in or a cynical subversion of the current fever engendered by the events, but its near invisibility puts paid to that rather decisively.
While much of the plot seems to go the way one would expect it to, with the big reveal almost predictable from the outset, there are a few neat little swerves here and there to keep things moving along.
If the overall predictability and familiarity of the plot wasn’t enough of a handicap, there is a huge onus on the audience to suspend their disbelief as non-journalist Deeva manages to get away with an amazing level of law bending snooping, during which she exposes a plenitude of crimes, duplicitous dealings and power abuse that the press and authorities never get a whiff of.
The text book tropes of the crime thriller genre are well represented here, most of whom are easily recognisable upon appearance, with little or no attempt to establish any kind of emotional connection with the audience. Even as the nominal victim, Vipon’s blind loyalty to his gang which sees him attacked whilst on remand is infuriating, leaving the viewer to wonder why Deeva is even bothering to try to exonerate him.
Twenty8K likes to think it reflects the gritty urbanity of East End London but only the opening scene in the nightclub and the occasional burst of the hip hop soundtrack represents this. For a bunch of thugs, chavs and wannabe gangsters most of the cast are too well spoken, with little in the way of street slang used for that extra touch of authenticity. This may be a blessing for anyone who couldn’t follow the bespoke “gang” dialogue of Attack The Block but to be truly gritty it has feel real and this doesn’t, despite the earnest efforts of the cast, most of whom deliver a solid if one dimensional essaying of their largely dislikeable characters.
The biggest surprise is Parminder Nagra, who returns to UK soil after a successful stint on US TV. After proving to be the talented one from Bend It Like Beckham her performance here is interesting to say the least. Physically and emotionally she doesn’t put a foot wrong, displaying great poise, timing and nuanced reactions to every major incident that befalls her characters. Unfortunately the delivery of her lines is flat and listless.
Aside from a brief profanity laced outburst late in the film, Nagra doesn’t emote at all, rendering lines that demand pain, despair or anger ineffective. It’s hard to say what went wrong but this robotic reading denies Deeva that all important connection between protagonist and audience, lessening the tension typically inherent in this genre. A shame as Nagara is a wonderful talent and unquestionably capable of so much more.
With the strong cast and multi-award winning writer, Twenty8K had the potential to offer something new to a well worn genre but falls short with its pedestrian plot lines and shallow characters. A well made film which offers perfectly serviceable and temporarily engaging entertainment but lacks the requisite substance, credibility and heart.
Dolby Digital 5.1 & 2.0
Cast and Crew Featurette
Showbox Media Trailers
Rating – ***
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