I’ve never fully understood British humor. The dry delivery and snarky wit sometimes really works and can result in me being on the ground laughing with how brilliant it is (i.e. Death at a Funeral). That said, sometimes the much more direct approach and often times crass in-your-face mentality of it leaves my American mind confused as to whether I’m supposed to be merely amused or rolling on the floor in tears (i.e. most films created by Guy Ritchie). I’d put Down Terrace in the latter category. When checking the IMDB for the film prior to my viewing, the poster had such raves as “Caustically Funny!” and had a genre label of “Comedy”. What I ended up getting was something much more in the vein of Guy Ritchie. While not without its moments of comedic finesse, Down Terrace succeeds more as a quirky crime family drama than a straight up comedy.
Hit the jump for my full review of Down Terrace.
The story revolves around father and son Bill and Karl (played by real life father and son Robert Hill and Robin Hill) who have just gotten out of jail for a mysterious crime for which they were snitched on. While trying to find their mystery informant, their “family business” seems to be at stake. Karl finds out his girlfriend Valda (Kerry Peacock) is pregnant with presumably his child, and mobsters from London come down to make sure several mysterious deaths won’t be causing “trouble” for the family, which is seemingly headed by Karls mother and Bills wife Maggie (Julia Deakin).
The movie in my eyes wasn’t necessarily a comedy but that doesn’t mean it didn’t have several great comedic moments including one of the great awkward family dinner scenes of recent memory as Bill asks Maggie if the child is even Karl’s. The relationship between Karl and Bill is the most interesting part of the movie. Bill is cynical and always thinking about the business, knowing that having Maggie and her unborn child around puts them in jeopardy. When he confronts Karl about getting rid of her Karl refuses and creates some great on screen tension.
The overall presentation of the film is maybe its greatest aspects. Each scene is separated with space and takeaway shots of just the actors making tea or looking through a window as a brilliant acoustic soundtrack takes over. It sets up a melancholy atmosphere that fits the half-serious half-quirky tone of the film perfectly.
If the movie has a downside it was that I went in with a mindset to laugh and that was never truly fulfilled. Robin Hill and Ben Wheatley’s script heavily relies on the use of the F-word which while sometimes funny, just gave the line delivery a sometimes drastic and heated tone, the near opposite of comedy. But other than that hiccup I found Down Terrace to be a highly entertaining film. The characters were worth spending an hour and a half with and the story was fun. The ending takes a somewhat shocking twist and left falling somewhere between The Sopranos and a Guy Richie film, which isn’t a half bad place to be.