Sometimes it’s difficult not to feel slightly sad at the end of a film when you know that with a slightly bigger budget and some expert help and guidance on the script and direction, it could have been something really, really good. Unfortunately while the guts of something smart, entertaining and sharp is present in in the urban thriller Victim, it’s all a little underbaked and doesn’t quite hit the spot.
Young woman Tia’s (Ashley Madekwe’s) father has done well for himself and managed to get off the mean street of London, but she heads into the urban sprawl to live with her cousin, Davina. Tia meets Tyson (Ashley Chin), a young man who’s gotten involved in crime due to desperate family circumstances. He’s trying to keep things afloat as he attempts to ensure his smart younger sister get the education she deserves and deals with his mother’s massive gambling debts. As Tia and Tyson’s relationship develops, he attempts to break away from the cycle of crime and violence he seems to be trapped in. However escaping isn’t all that easy, leading to a crime that brings things a little too close to home.
As is becoming more common with the never-ending production line of British urban dramas, some of the main actors, who are from the streets themselves, were also responsible for the script, which gives things a suitably honest edge to the tale. However dramatically it has problems, with the pacing all over the place and dialogue that often a little too on the nose. There’s a scene towards the end where Tyson’s sister essentially gives a treatise on the themes of the movie. On its own it’s a well-written and interesting sequence, underlining the idea that people in underclasses are victims of their circumstances even when they become the perpetrators keeping others down. However to pull off a scene like that you really need a really strong movie to lead up to it. Here though it feels like it’s trying to prop things up all on its own.
It’s a great shame as Victim is a movie that’s got things to say and has a plot that could have delivered that message in a fun and involving way, but despite a dedicated attempt to make it feel fresh and real, it’s all a bit forced. It isn’t helped by the fact that while first-time feature director Alex Pillai does a good job of showing off the London streets, dramatically it doesn’t feel like he’s managed to escape his TV roots. There’s certainly enough here that I’d be interested to see what writers Ashley Chin and Michael Meris come up with next, but sadly Victim is more interesting for what it tries to be and wants to say, than for what it actually manages.
Overall Verdict: A valiant attempt to make a gritty urban thriller that wants to say something about life on the streets, but a few too many clichés and a script that doesn’t quite work dramatically undermines its good intentions. There’s a fun, understated Adam Deacon cameo though.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac