Director: Simon Philips
Screenplay: James Crow
Starring: Nick Nevern, Kellie Shirley, Jenna Harrison, Peter Barrett, Steven Berkoff
Running Time: 80 mins
BBFC Classification: 18
Damien is a cop, but one with a lot of personal baggage that he’s trying to come to terms with. His father is in prison for drug dealing, his mother is dead, and his mates are all petty criminals and/or football hooligans; something he was himself years ago. He even, unknowingly, helped his dad as a small kid, by carrying drugs into football matches for his father to sell on. However, after being a witness to a serious crime he decided, as a boy, to change his life and worked toward joining the police force.
Set during the lead up to the 2011 London riots, Riot, which was originally called G.B.H on its initial release, follows this beat copper’s day-to-day trials and tribulations as he loses his cool during a drugs bust, makes friends with a female colleague, attends a case of domestic violence, cheats on his girlfriend, visits his dad in prison, helps to bring down a brothel, deals with a case of school-bullying and chases a kid who has nicked a car stereo. The film also documents how he deals with each of these situations, whether it is passively, trying to calmly help the victims, or by inflicting his own, very violent brand of justice, as he does when he kicks the crap out of a serial wife-beater. However, when his new cop girlfriend is raped by one of his old mates during the riots Damien finally snaps and sets off to wreak his own brand of vengeance.
There’s nothing really ground-breaking about Riot and the film at times feels like a made-for-TV cop drama that has been given licence to be more brutal than those that are usually aired on the goggle-box. However, Riot is well made and holds the interest with some engaging performances from the leads and some well realised set pieces.
My main criticism of the film would be an over reliance on Daily Mail headline grabbing themes (this feels like a very Conservative film), themes that seem to dictate the episodic nature of the film. One can almost imagine the writer with a copy of the Mail next to his laptop as he typed away at his screenplay; all the while mentally ticking various ‘issue’ boxes off…
Considering one of the main themes of the film is Damien having to deal with his ex-gang, his dubious mates are never really fleshed out, they mainly seem to be just cyphers for a wider malaise that exists throughout British society. It would have been nice to have spent a bit more time with one or two of them in order to understand why they do what they do, especially Barry who later rapes Damien’s cop girlfriend, Louise, during the movie’s final act.
The film for the most part is decently shot with only a couple of suspect editing choices that leapt out at me. There are plenty of locations (mostly around Wimbledon, by the sounds of it), which give the film a bigger-budget feel than it probably had. The music is, for the most part, pretty incidental, but I did enjoy the rockier end credits music, I must admit.
Overall I think Riot is a decent piece of gritty crime drama, although to be honest I’m not sure how large the audience is for this type of film these days. It’s all rather too familiar and other films have done it better before.
Reviewer: Justin Richards
Riot has recently been released on DVD and is being distributed by Lionsgate. Unfortunately there were no extras on the review disc, although I, for one, would have liked to have seen some ‘behind the scenes’ documentaries to accompany the film. Surely there must be some behind-the-scenes footage from the film and a few interviews with cast and crew knocking around somewhere?