Director: Brendon O'Loughlin
Screenplay: Freddie Connor, Sheraiah Larcher, Brendon O'Loughlin
Based on: The Grind by Rishi Opel
Producers: Rupert Bryan, Freddie Connor, Brendon O'Loughlin, Steffen Wild
Starring: Freddie Connor, Gordon Alexander, Jamie Foreman, Dexter Fletcher, Zoe Tapper, Kellie Shirley
BBFC Certification: 18
Duration: 92 min
After watching the impressive Down Terrace last month, my opinion of the British gangster film had risen, so next on my plate was Baseline, the directorial debut of Brendon O'Loughlin. Thankfully the film avoids the trappings of the tired Lock, Stock wannabes and plays out more like a crime drama than a flashy action film or thriller, but it's not as fresh or memorable as Ben Wheatley's aforementioned effort.
Baseline follows Danny (Freddie Connor), a nightclub bouncer keen on saving up money to open a club of his own. After saving the life of Terry (Jamie Foreman), a notorious local gangster, Danny gets dragged into the criminal underworld, resulting in the imprisonment of his best friend Paul (Gordon Alexander), for which he feels partly responsible. Three years later when Paul is released, Danny and his girlfriend Jessica (Zoe Tapper) get into more trouble than they bargained for despite Danny's best efforts to play it straight.
Much like Caught in the Crossfire which I reviewed last week, Baseline is a film that is well presented but suffers from a bland and cliched script. This comes across as the more successful film though. Admittedly it's British indie roots nudge it in my favour, but Baseline benefits from a largely more believable storyline and characters that people can root for. It doesn't stop it from feeling quite dull and undramatic at times though. There are some powerful scenes but the overall narrative is too predictable and the protagonist's character arc too weak to fully enthral. Paul's story has potential but because it takes a side seat to Danny's it's too flimsy to add any meat to the film's bones. That's a common problem actually, there's often not enough development between scenes to invest totally in the characters' relationships and decisions. Instead the film tends to go through the motions towards it's well-signposted denouement.
As I mentioned previously, Baseline is well mounted though. The cinematography is very slick and the film looks great for an independent £2,000,000 production. Although it's not an action packed film, when any violence does take place it's very well handled too and feels brutal rather than stylish or exciting. In particular the film's finale makes for difficult viewing and helps the film earn it's 18 certificate. It's just a shame that there isn't enough substance there to give scenes like that even more impact.
Although it looks like a Hollywood production, Baseline's low budget origins do show in the strength of some of it's performances. I wouldn't call anyone bad in the film, but there is a TV-level standard to a lot of the work onscreen. Connor in particular struggles to pull off the leading role, he doesn't quite have the charisma to keep the audience truly interested. Gordon Alexander surprised me though by showing he can handle more than just tough-guy action roles. He's hardly going to give De Niro a run for his money but he shows more maturity here than I've seen in some of his previous films.
When it comes to it, Baseline is an applaudable debut, but there's little here to take it beyond Buy Viagra Professional Online Pharmacy No Prescription Needed the straight-to-DVD market. As much effort should have been put into the writing and performances as was put into the cinematography and they might have come out with something quite impressive.
Baseline is out now on DVD and Blu-Ray from Optimum Home Entertainment. Picture quality on the DVD is strong and the sound is solid too. Features include two trailers and a brief low-tech interview with star and co-writer Freddie Connor.
Reviewed by David Brook