Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Dead Fish (2008)

Cute, if slightly tepid British crime yarn about a hitman and a young lad in love who accidentally switch phones, and the mayhem that ensues. The plot, a collection of contrivances and goofy, colorful characters, all very reminiscent of Guy Ritchie's crime flicks, is most certainly not an appealing factor here. In fact, the biggest thing the film has going against it is that it feels, more or less, like a bunch of shit happening simultaneously without any real, organic sense of cohesion. What IS actually pretty cool and watchable here are the performances. Gary Oldman plays the hitman with a great, surprisingly coiled attitude that is a refreshing change of pace from his typical loud, explosive villain routine. He actually provides the film with a bit of genuine romantic substance that the writing does not nurture in the slightest. Some bloke named Andrew Lee Potts plays the schmuck that switches phones with Oldman, and unwittingly integrates himself into his life, and he's a solid, likeable lead, but he's completely overshadowed by the original love Guru Jimi Mistry as his stoner buddy Sal. Billy Zane and Karel Roden play bumbling hitmen on the hunt for Potts (remember what I said about Guy Ritchie), but aside from Zane's delightfully stuffy attire and demeanor, their scenes have little to write home about and could have easily been cut from the film. And Robert Carlyle basically combines his performances in Transpotting and Formula 51 for his loan shark character, stealing the film in his few scenes with a never-ending spew of verbal abuse and an overarching sense of pragmatic entrepreneurship. The circus-like procession of interesting characters is fairly fun, but the intensity level is not high enough and the events that transpire never deviate far enough from convention to truly be memorable. That being said, there is an interesting, unconventionally toned-down visual aesthetic to the film, and it gives the film more leverage than I believe the script deserved.

Slightly recommended for fans of British gangster films a la Guy Ritchie or Formula 51 (aka The 51st State). I started this one thinking it seemed to be a lost brother to those films; but a distinct creative lack of ambition keeps this one a lesser relative.

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