There’s nothing wrong with ambition, the British direct-to-DVD gangster movie scene with boilerplate, milquetoast tales that you probably can’t even tell apart if you’ve watched them. All this is my way of saying, I have to applaud Retribution for trying something different in terms of low-budget British filmmaking. By setting its gangland London tale around a dispute between angels and demons, it is, for better for worse, very unlike almost everything else on the market. It’s just a shame that its uniqueness is about its only positive quality.
Retribution is the directorial debut of Christine Edwards, the writer of Guns, Gangsters, Gambling. It is something of a spin on the classic Romeo and Juliet-style narrative of love blooming in the middle of a gang war, but this one involves a troubled young woman whose parents were killed in a car crash shortly before she’s due to go to Trinity College to study Music and the angel she meets there. Oh yeah, I hadn’t mentioned it’s all about a gang war between angels and demons.
When a film is partially advertised on featuring one of the cast members of Love Island (Luke White, who has the most blink-and-you’ll-miss-it of cameos), you know you’re not about a masterpiece, but while it can be excused for its frequently less-than-stellar effects work, as it is clearly trying hard and working with what it has, what can’t be excused is the lack of anything resembling life, humour or any real energy or shock factor to the film. I don’t think after the opening dinner party scene I saw anyone even smile. It’s a tale about a dispute being gangster angels and demons, it even has infighting within those two groups and it fails to make that gloriously silly premise even faintly engrossing. Also, as the entire thing is predicated on a romance, it’s worth checking if the actors have any chemistry before you do.
Retribution is one of the most aggressively amateur films I have seen this or any year. It is full of optimistic yet frequently awful effects, writing, acting, and direction. I will say that the cinematography is passable for a cheap indie, but it is not interesting enough to make the film worth watching. You have to applaud them for trying something; it seems a lot to ask that of a lot of young British filmmakers, but at the same time, maybe less would have been more. There may be good reason that the structures and formulas work. They certainly help to sell DVDs, although this is something I can’t see happening off the back of this effort. It’s not quite objectionably bad enough to condemn it to Tartarus but it is so aggressively incompetent that I would be remiss to recommend this to all but the most desperate of movie watchers.
Dir: Christine Edwards
Scr: Christine Edwards
Cast: Jake White, Ayvianna Snow, Amar Adatia, Calum Best, Alex Reid, Reuben Beau Davies, David Haydn, Daniel Halawi
Prd: Amar Adatia, Christine Edwards
DOP: Oli Williams
Run time: 90 minutes
Retribution is out on DVD, Blu-ray and digital download from 5th September.