A LONELY PLACE TO DIE

6 out of 10

Released: 7th September 2011

Director: Julian Gilbey (Plastic The Rise Of The Footsoldier / Rollin’ With The Nines)

Cast:  Melissa George, Ed Speleers, Sean Harris and Karel Roden with Paul Anderson, Stephen McCole, Kate Magowan, Garry Sweeney with Eamonn Walker and Alec Newman 

Trailer:  A LONELY PLACE TO DIE

Who’s up for a white-knuckle action flick set in the Scottish Highlands made on a “bring your own toilet roll budget?”  Well snobbery will get you nowhere.  This ultra low budget Brit-Pic achieves cinematic miracles considering that it was made for under £1 Million. Consider it’s Hollywood counterparts Cliffhanger or Vertical Limit for a second and wonder how far that figure would have gone. Maybe catering for a week. Who knows?  For one thing, this film, especially in the first half, measures up dramatically to either of those mentioned.  Plotwise it’s sleek but it does get bogged down at times with too many baddies.  Here’s the plot.  Five mountain climbers including Melissa George (MULLHOLLAND DRIVE) and Ed Speleers (ERAGON) find a child hostage buried alive in a box below the ground.  A frought rescue attempt lands the sporty five in the crosshairs between the hostage takers and the equally fearsome father, an East European gangster of considerable standing played by rent-a-Russian, Karel Roden (HELLBOY).  Some accomplished stunts and action follow as our heroes are hounded by both teams.

As predictable as the plot sounds there is still much to recommend. All of the characters are economically set up but follow convincing arcs.  Sean Harris (PROMETHEUS) is on chilly but restrained form as the lead kidnapper who may be in danger of coming out on top too easily.  The plot bottlenecks when all the parties reach the same small town where a carnival is in process.   Too many characters, too many guns, no time for anyone to explain themselves (but thats realistic right?) this turns from slick thriller into a series of  “who just got shot just then?” scenes.  As for action, it does overreach its grasp slightly, but in a year where there were virtually no Brit action flicks were released (Attack the Block springs to mind)  this fills a welcome gap.

So in short we have a predictable plot, amazing photography of the highlands, a brilliant if crowded cast, a reasonably good script and a slick pace for most of the running time.  Recommended for those that want an action flick in a relatively new location to cinema.  This is a reasonable improvement on Julian Gilbey’s debut Rollin’ With The Nines, perhaps the bleakest UK gangster movie ever made.

So now it’s out on DVD don’t be put off by the depressing title. These characters want to live.

6 out of 10 – A bold and largely generic action thriller made special by the fact its a Brit-Pic and that it was made for peanuts.

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

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One thought on “A LONELY PLACE TO DIE

  1. JOE PESCI II’s wonderful review of this severely slept on actioner

    A LONELY PLACE TO DIE

    Now I’m sure most of you are quite sensibly reading this in some sensible reading place, hopefully sitting down (and not, presumably, halfway up a mountain). As such, you’re probably not very active (I’m not judging) so you won’t really need to watch this film for its moral which is: NEVER CLIMB A MOUNTAIN! IT’S BLOODY DANGEROUS! So instead, you need to watch it instead for its entertainment value, and because Melissa George is in it.

    Mountains. Lonely places indeed. Except the ones in this film which seem to be very crowded. But how can one resist the lure of the pure mountain air, the thrill of the climb! So, a bunch of friends decide to climb a mountain, which is a silly thing to do in a film even if (and this is unusual in a film) they’re not (mostly) idiots. But off they hike, and what do you know, they get picked off one by one by mysterious murderers. There is no way this should be a good film, but it is. In fact, with one big caveat, this is one of the best films I’ve seen since I was roped into reviewing British cinema of the 2010s (that’s about 60 films now). It’s unusually tense, well written, well paced, beautifully shot (particularly all the mountain and aerial stuff) and a downright exciting little film.

    Our climbers are the usual bunch: boring but dependable Alec Newman, boring and obnoxious Ed Speleers, boring and chippy Garry Sweeney, nice but boring Kate Magowan and determined but boring Melissa George. (I don’t think I’ve put them in the kill order there.) OK, maybe I’m being a bit harsh; they do make up quite a plausible team of mountaineers (like I know what’s plausible or not in mountaineering folk) except for the obnoxious Speleers: he’s so hideous I can’t quite understand why anybody would want to hang around on a mountain with him, unless they intended leaving him dead there. And the acting is pretty good across the board so it’s quite disappointing when they start getting killed (really early on).

    Having seeded what might be a psychological thriller (maybe one of them has a dark secret which the trip will in some way uncover?), the film suddenly takes an abrupt Barton Finkish turn. Before they’ve even got anywhere near a mountain, they stumble on a subterranean prison in the middle of nowhere wherein is a small frightened foreign girl. For reasons I never quite fathomed, instead of going back the way they came (which seemed to be about ten minutes from their cabin, where I guess they might have had a car) they decide to continue hiking so as to get the girl to the safety of a town and authorities and all that sort of thing.

    But, of course, no-one goes around imprisoning small children in the middle of a Scottish forest as a harmless jape. No, the kidnappers are a very unpleasant duo, and they set about attempting to recapture their quarry with calm brutality. They really are the nastiest (and in many ways most credible) villains I’ve encountered for a while, possibly because neither of them is played by Billy Murray or Terry Stone. It is partly their workmanlike calmn which just saves the film toppling over into a silly shoot-em-up at the end. Sean Harris is particularly good as the maddeningly placid and sensible psychopath. You could argue that the film goes into standard Hollywood chase mode here as our team is killed off and everyone runs about like headless chickens. But it works, possibly because the maguffin is a small child (which is cheating really), possibly because the prelude seemed to be leading somewhere else, or perhaps because the scenery is so well photographed that it’s quite fun watching people run about in it. Or perhaps because the cast are whittled away surprisingly quickly (though that leaves you wondering where it will go next, and you sort of sense that the film-makers might have thought that as well).

    Just as we’ve settled down to watch a game of cat and mouse between goodies and baddies running across the mountainous Scottish highlands, the film takes another Barton Finky turn as we follow the survivors and their relentless pursuers down into a small town, which just happens to be enjoying some sort of carnival thingy going on (thus inviting THE WICKER MAN comparisons which I utterly refuse to do). This sequence is the weakest (when you think back afterwards) but works brilliantly whilst the film is playing.

    A bit earlier I mentioned that there was a big caveat. Now is the time to reveal the caveat. As you may expect, anyone in possession of the sort of money that makes their child a kidnap target is also likely to spend money on hiring people to get her back by more forceful means, particularly if dad turns out to be a Yugoslavian warlord. This means (a) another set of violent nutters are running around and (b) you do really wonder whether it would have been better to leave the kid in the hole in the first place, after all she’s only going to grow up as some sort of evil heiress to an empire of crime and ill-gotten gains. So, with surviving mountaineers, kidnappers and mercenaries running around, the carnival soon turns into a bit of a bloodbath, and the slam-bang finale does feel somewhat bolted-on.

    Credibility is strained from time to time (the decoy for example; and the likelihood of a fall killing you relates directly to whether or not your name is above the title; the same goes for bullet avoidance and underwater breath-holding). But the film does keep, for the most part, rooted in something like a movie version of reality. And it’s easily the best film I’ve ever seen about a Yugoslavian war criminal’s kidnapped daughter being entombed in a Scottish forest and rescued by a disparate band of mountaineers and chased after by mercenaries.

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