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Friday, July 20, 2018

Crime and Redemption

The screenwriter of Eastern Promises and Dirty Pretty Things,Steven Knight knows a thing or two about the netherworld of London

Written by Shalini Langer | Published: June 29, 2013 3:48:17 am


DIRECTOR: Steven Knight

CAST: Jason Statham,Agata Buzek


The screenwriter of Eastern Promises and Dirty Pretty Things,Steven Knight knows a thing or two about the netherworld of London,as well as how the immigrants have come to inhabit that space. In his first directorial venture,he adds to that mix a very Christian theme of crime and redemption,and Britain’s action automaton Jason Statham.

It’s a very uneven combination,beautiful in parts in the way the film is picturised and lingers over scenes,and in Dario Marianelli’s score (reverberating one time with Indian tunes),but unsure about how it wants to get there.

Statham plays a former ex-special forces soldier who did some very bad things during the war in Afghanistan,which he is still haunted by,and who now lives on the streets. His real name could be anything — from Joesph Smith to Joey Jones — and we are left as deliberately vague about what his crimes are. One night,he gets a chance at a new life when he tumbles into a plush,empty apartment whose owner is going to be away for the next six months. He takes on the guy’s life,his clothes,his car,his money. The first thing he does is donate 500 pounds to a Christian group that feeds the homeless like him. He has special regard for Sister Christina (Buzek),who distributes the soup.

Joey goes on to get a job as a cook at a Chinese joint,but soon they realise he can be better employed as a henchman. So even as he is professing his desire to be better to Christina,he goes around showing no mercy to those who cross his path as the Chinese warlord’s muscleman. Joey tries to do the balancing act in his mind by giving away his money to Christina and her efforts,and later to his ex-wife and his child who doesn’t know him. He also takes it upon himself to avenge the murder of this girl whom he had befriended on the streets.

In Joey’s uneven bid for a new him,Christina is his overt conscience. As she too opens up to him,they develop a relationship that goes beyond the ambit of the Church. Knight handles this part delicately,leaning more towards sympathy than sensationalism.

What is not clear is what larger intentions he has for Joey. Joey doesn’t appear to have any plans towards being a better person,and Statham fails to show if there is any kind of tussle within him,if at all,in that direction. Nor does he appear to have any plans if he wants to remain the bad guy. In fact,there is an attempt to explain the brief interlude with Christina as a “crazy patch” — which is just not satisfactory enough for a film plot.

The gimmick of drones in Afghanistan and now surveillance cameras — hence the film’s title — constantly watching him from above as he tumbles from one low to another also ultimately never rises above its own symbolism.


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