Robert Atkinson is sick and tired of his everyday job as a London banker. Hopeful for a better life, he takes a risk with the bank’s money that eventually leads him down a rabbit hole into a world he could not have imagined and one for which he definitely isn’t prepared.
Robert starts off as a tortured soul before ending up just plain tortured. It’s an odd change of pace for the film, moving from crime to grotesque and one that may test the resolve of some viewers. But it’s worth working through as the film’s story becomes more labyrinthine with Robert’s brother Steve trying to unpick what has happened to him, whilst becoming embroiled in the operation to bring The Triads to justice and the dangers it entails.
It’s not a perfect drama and there are a number of moments that do test the viewers resolve and require a leap of faith. Early in, there’s a point that will leave the viewer incredulous, not with the dramatic weight of the moment, but with the sheer ridiculousness of it. It is, however, the pivot point for Robert’s actions and will leave you questioning the security of a bank that has safety deposit boxes in such an open area. Work through this, and some of the other logic pitfalls, and it’s a worthwhile experience.
The Host is a stylishly shot film, giving us a very attractive look at London and Amsterdam. The quality of the film-making stretches far beyond the look fo the film, too. Beckingham, in the lead, is a captivating on-screen presence at times, giving us a real feel for the pressure under which Robert finds himself. With Nigel Barber as the resolute Herbert Summers, a DEA agent, and Togo Igawa as Lau Hoi Ho, a leader of The Triads, on chilling form, they form part of an equally impressive cast, accompanied by Derek Jacobi and Dominic Keating and McFly’s Dougie Poynter as Robert’s brother, Steve, a substantial role that is far from stunt casting and, as Poynter’s first major screen role, shows that he has potential to be a capable actor in serious roles.
Once in Amsterdam, we see Maryam Hassouni, Daniël Boissevain and Jeroen Krabbé bring additional weight to the cast. The film doesn’t attend to become crime noir; it’s not trying to be crime noir, but by equal measure, it isn’t just another gritty gangster film.
Houssouni, as Vera, brings a sense of playful intelligence that becomes darkly dangerous to her role, a woman with depth to play against Robert’s sense of vulnerability as he tries to make sense of what he’s about to do. She, however, isn’t quite the gentle, if somewhat damaged, woman that she first appears to be and Robert’s inadvertent involvement with The Triads isn’t going to stop her getting what she wants.
The success of The Host is largely in its casting and the solid performances that bring to life a script of damaged, broken and dangerous characters. There’s a lot going on in The Host and it certainly uses its 1 hour 43 minute runtime well. It never feels like stuff is shoehorned in, but it certainly feels like a weighty film and one that deserves attention.
Dir: Andy Newbery
Scr: Finola Geraghty, Brendan Bishop, Laurence Lamers
Cast: Maryam Hassouni, Mike Beckingham, Dougie Poynter, Nigel Barber, Suan-Li Ong, Togo Igawa, Daniël Boissevain, Tom Wu, Derek Jacobi, Jeroen Krabbé, Fabian Jansen, Reinout Bussemaker, Dominic Keating, Margo Stilley, Ruby Turner
Prd: Zachary Weckstein
DOP: Oona Menges
Country: United Kingdom/Netherlands
Runtime: 103 mins
THE HOST is available through all on-demand platforms from 17th April