British crime drama hasn’t fared very well since the glory days of The Long Good Friday; now it’s all Danny Dyer romps and hackneyed mockney geezers. I Against I does little to redress the balance.
Co-directors Mark Cripps, David Ellison and James Marquand set out to create a genre movie that emulated the visuals of films like Blade Runner and Heat. Stylistically, though, it is closer to the kind of cat-and-mouse crime drama that’s a staple of Chinese and Korean cinema. Ian Drake is a swaggering young nightclub manager, kind of a thinking man’s Danny Dyer. Unfortunately he stumbles across the body of his rather shady boss, who has come off second best in a knife fight. Ian is told in no uncertain terms to kill the only other person who was at the scene of the crime. What he doesn’t know is that the other guy – an army vet of Russian or East European descent – has been given the same orders.
It starts off promisingly enough, with the grainy digital stock well suited to the noir-ish atmosphere, with plenty of lingering shots of Canary Wharf and chases around the M25. It certainly delivers on the standard tropes of the genre. Single bullet spun round a revolver: check. Ambiguous femme fatale: check. In-over-his-head young protagonist: check. In fact, it ticks the boxes so hard it tears through the page – if it were a voting slip it would be classed as spoiled.
While this isn’t necessarily a problem, the flimsy story very much is. Any suspense is blown away by the humourless, formulaic writing: you’re never in any serious doubt about who is pulling the strings and why.
There are countless movies doing what I Against I does. Most do it far better.
First published in City A.M.