While “Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy,” Andrea Arnold’s “Wuthering Heights,” and Steve McQueen's "Shame" are jostling for pole position at the Venice Film Festival, it’s easy to forget that films produced in the U.K. tend to hew, crudely speaking, to diametric opposites: either boffo pictures about stammering royalty or ones about cock-er-ney geezers roving around London with Kalashnikovs. The trailer for “Turnout” from director Lee Sales, which recently cropped on the site for UK tabloid The Sun, would appear to fall distinctly into the latter camp.
This is always fairly dangerous territory. For every “Fish Tank” (which has an air of ethereal floating detachment about it anyway), there’s an actively offensive film like “Zebra Crossing” or “Rise of the Footsoldier” lurking not far behind. Given that this trailer is more or less a meaningless collage of images set to music, punctuated occasionally by a skinhead doling out a Glasgow kiss, lager louts falling about in pubs and heaps of cocaine being dusted off on kitchen tables, it’s not that hard to tell what kind of territory “Turnout” is marking out for itself.
Done correctly, genre pictures can be magnificent, as anyone who’s caught “Kill List” or “Attack the Block” will tell you. Bungle your gritty urban genre pic, though, and the results aren’t pretty; they tend to be ghettoised for pandering to an imagined audience, in their limited and convenient representation of homogenous urban environments, and are often deliriously unambitious in subject matter and style, to boot. They’re also usually helmed by Nick Love – himself currently in the midst of adapting TV’s “The Sweeney” for the big screen for no real reason and, one expects, with the same blithe indifference to the source material he brought to his recent, superfluous remake of Alan Clarke’s “The Firm.” In lieu of producing any original material on the capital city -- one recently the site of mass unrest in certain boroughs, no less -- they're cannibalizing and repackaging the work of others, the main differences being a more or less complete disregard for subtext, and a fondness for putting Norman Foster's 'Gherkin' in the background instead of Big Ben.
That said, the trailer isn’t without some verve, and the film has assembled an interesting cast. Writers Francis Pope and George Russo also star, while the ever-reliable Neil Maskell has a supporting role. Ophelia Lovibond, who just about edges out Imogen Poots and Juno Temple in the “young-British-actress-with-faintly-ridiculous name” stakes seems also to figure prominently. Meanwhile actor Ben Drew, better known as musician Plan B, is also on board having already cropped up in less-than-illustrious fare like the Michael Winner-lite “Harry Brown,” Noel Clarke’s bimbos-with-attitude misfire “126.96.36.199,” and he’s attached – lo and behold – to that aforementioned “Sweeney” remake.
We live in hope there’ll be something more to this -- though the generic plot synopsis involving an “ill-advised drug deal” posted on the film’s official site doesn’t get the pulse going – as it is always refreshing to see a debuting filmmaker come up through the ranks.
“Turnout” opens in the U.K. on September 16th.