Directed by Stuart St. Paul
Starring Billy Murray, Danny Midwinter, Craig Fairbrass, Stephen Uppal, Matt Kennard, Sam Kennard, Laura Aikman, Natalie Anderson
Release date: April 18, 2011 (UK)
British cinema has long been associated with crime dramas. It is a long tradition which stretches from gritty gangster fares such as Get Carter and The Krays through to more recent underworld flicks like Gangster No1 and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Thanks to the success of these, the latest generation of British filmmakers has produced a constant reel of new British crime films in recent years.
These films, it has to be said, are of varying quality. Often they are films full of enthusiasm but slightly rough-around-the-edges and sometimes just downright boring. So I was slightly apprehensive when I came to watch the latest genre effort to make it on to DVD, Freight, the sixth film written and directed by ex-stunt coordinator Stuart St. Paul.
A group of European asylum seekers make their way illegally into Britain in the back of a haulage truck. Meeting them in London is a ruthless Romanian gang, led by the fearsome Cristi (Danny Midwinter), who force the women into the sex trade and the men into bare-knuckle fighting.
Local businessman Gabe Taylor (Billy Murray) rents out blocks of portable toilets. When the Romanian gang steal one of Gabe’s portaloos, with future son-in-law Zaf (Stephen Uppal) trapped inside, Gabe is determind to get it back. The way he organises and assembles his friends – including no nonsense righthand man Jed (Craig Fairbrass), sons Sonny (Matt Kennard) and Stevie (Sam Kennard) – with such efficiency and immediacy suggests there is more at stake than just chemical shitters.
In a violent confrontation, Gabe and his boys retrieve the toilets from the Romanians. In retaliation for his fallen friends, Cristi orders the abduction of Gabe’s daughter, Julie (Laura Aikman). Now Gabe is really mad. And you wouldn’t like Gabe when he’s mad.
Director St. Paul handles some of the action, especially the car chases, very well; he ramps up the tension with relative ease. However the gun fights and showdowns in act three are so cold and distant that instead of displaying unconscionable killers they flash past with little feeling or meaning. The film always looks great thanks to cinematographer Carl Summerscales who maintains a gloomy, grimy look, perfect for the seedy underworld in which Freight takes place.
Unfortunately this can not be said for the screenplay. The attempts at Lock, Stock”¦ humour comes at inappropriate moments. Rather than alleviating scenes of tension, they come during the tension, ruining the tone and left me slightly bemused. Attempts at melodrama – Romanian criminals telling British criminals how lucky they are to have such a fine education system and employment opportunities – feel uncomfortably out of place along with the embarrassingly macho dialogue: “˜the only part of this country you’re going to enjoy is the inside of a prison cell’, which, coming from a criminal makes little sense on many fronts. And Cristi’s threat of “˜I will burn every toilet you have, then I will burn you’ failed to affect in me anything close to fear.
The far more interesting and engaging story of a group of eastern European women abducted and forced to work in the sex trade is forced into the background. It was during these scenes that I found myself routing for one of the characters for the first time when Ewa (Natalie Anderson) finds herself separated from her young daughter and husband and desperately tries to escape her horrid new life.
Freight is often just scenes of “˜propah well-“˜ard cockney geezers’ firing guns at people with even more dodgy accents and some of them fall on the floor never to move again. Despite this I thought there were some good performances by Natalie Anderson, Laura Aikman, and the hamming-it-to-the-max Danny Midwinter, which takes it slightly away from some of the worst straight-to-DVD efforts.
The disc extras include interviews with several cast member, including Billy Murray and Craig Fairbrass, who all seem to say the same thing. That thing is the plot of the movie and how great their role in the film is.
There is also a collection of featurettes which takes us behind the scenes on the set of Freight. But, like the interviews it feels like they were hastily put together and don’t really add much value to the disc.
A photo gallery completes the extra features.