THE VETERAN

6 out of 10

Release Date: 29th April 2011

Director: Matthew Hope

Cast: Toby Kebbell, Adi Bielski, Tony Curran, Tom Brooke, Ivanno Jeremiah, Eboseta Ayemere with Ashley Thomas and Brian Cox

Writer: Matthew Hope

Trailer: THE VETERAN

the veteran poster New Poster For ‘The Veteran’ – Starring Toby Kebbell, Ashley “Bashy” Thomas & Brian Cox

Toby Kebbell is the ever up-and-coming next best thing in actor land.  The Veteran is the first real opportunity he’s had to show off his considerable talent in a lead role.  It’s a curious choice as the plot tries to be all things to all men but just about pulls it off.  The trailer is very misleading in that audiences will be led to believe that this is a Harry Brown-style vigilante flick in which a loner takes out the trash in his neighbourhood.  However, our hero’s motives are derived from a higher purpose.

Toby Kebbell plays Rob Miller, a former soldier who moves back to his South London flat to find that his estate is in the stranglehold of a gang led by Tyrone (ASHLEY THOMAS – MY BROTHER THE DEVIL), a dead eyed ghoul of a leader.  Beyond the odd scrape though, Miller seems unfazed by their threats and cold stares from the windows of their sleak 4×4. He is promptly employed as a government spook instead by Tom Brooke (THE BOAT THAT ROCKED), Tony Curran (IN THE DARK HALF) and Brian Cox (IRONCLAD) to glean information on a dormant terror cell in the city.  This is where the film draws comparison to the Sean Bean vehicle Cleanskin.  Only the trail eventually draws him back close to home and he has to deal with untold betrayals from the top as he realises he is equally expendable at home as he was in Afghanistan and Iraq.

If this sounds like an exercise in Daily Mail type scaremongering, it probably is.  It does, however,  reward the patient with the fire fight seen in the trailer (and it’s a good ‘un), so unsure politicking aside this works on many levels. The performances are as good as you could expect from such a good cast.  Toby Kebbell puts in a layered and committed performance, his character thoroughly devoted to his pursuit for truth.  His friendship with a Muslim convert, Fahad (IVANNO JEREMIAH) who has lost his younger brother,Ryan (EBOSETA AYEMERE), to Tyrone’s gang is particularly interesting story thread. But The Veteran tries to be two different movies at the same time. It stretches from the high rises of Stockwell, right into the halls of MI-5 in its slim running time and its packed to the gills with plot.  A pair of films about similar characters may have been better because ultimately the movie has a split personality; its international conspiracy thriller one minute, junior Harry Brown the next.  Ashley Thomas almost steals the show in a much smaller role as Miller’s adversary. His cold delivery “So, you’re the real life Call Of Duty. I could use a man with your talents” truly nails it. Chilly.  Someone help Ashley Thomas get some bigger roles.

6 out of 10 – A double whammy of different plots tear the film in two opposite directions. You get a vigilante killer flick and conspiracy government thriller the next.  It’s like one of those old 30 minute episodes of The Bill, where two seemingly unrelated crimes are connected together tenuously by the denouement.  Patient viewers are rewarded with a very cool gun battle near the end and the performances confirm that Toby Kebbell is the man to keep an eye on. Ditto for the under appreciated Ashley Thomas.

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT PERSON IN BEFORE?

  • Toby Kebbell: The Fantastic Four (2015), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (mo-cap), The Counsellor, The East, Wrath Of The Titans, War Horse, The Conspirator, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Prince Of Persia, Cheri, Rock-N-Rolla, Control, Wilderness, Dead Man’s Shoes
  • Tony Curran: Awaiting, Marvellous, Thor 2, In The Dark Half, Tintin (voice), X Men – First Class, Red Road, Underworld 2,  The Good German, Ondine, The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Blade 2, This Life (TV), Captives
  • Tom Brooke: The Boat That Rocked
  • Ashley Thomas: A Hundred Streets, My Brother The Devil,  Cockney’s Vs. ZombiesThe Man Inside (2012), Shank, 4-3-2-1
  • Brian Cox: The Anomaly, Believe, Her (voice), Red 2, Blood (2013), The Campaign, Coriolanus, Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, Ironclad, Red, Fantastic Mr Fox (voice), The Escapist, The Water Horse, Zodiac, Red Eye, Match Point, The Bourne Supremacy, Troy, X Men 2, 25th Hour, Adaptation, The Ring, The Bourne Identity, Super Troopers, For The Love Of The Money, The Corruptor, Rushmore, Desperate Measures, The Boxer, Kiss The Girls, The Long Kiss Goodnight, The Glimmer Man, Chain Reaction, Braveheart, Rob Roy, Iron Will, Hidden Agenda, Manhunter
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One thought on “THE VETERAN

  1. THE VETERAN – review by Matt Usher aka Joe Pesci II

    THE VETERAN is almost (but not quite) an interesting failure, let down largely by its story and its leading man. It could have been, and seems to have wanted to be, a film about how ex-servicemen are variously used and discarded by the powers that be, and how, despite their best efforts, the wars they have been fighting seem to be getting closer and closer to home. That’s what it should have been. What we actually get is an extended, distended and deeply un-thrilling episode of Spooks, without the pace, intelligence or plotting (not that any of those qualities were all that prominent in the TV show either). And our leading man is clearly not up to the challenges of the journey his character finds himself on. But then again our leading man is Toby Kebbell, an actor who always looks a little surprised to find himself in front of a camera.

    The plot is agreeably simple: THE VETERAN (Toby Kebbell) is back from Afghanistan and at a bit of a loose end. The estate he lives on has been taken over by drug-dealing hoodlums, led by Ashley Thomas (easily stealing the film). Meanwhile, THE VETERAN is asked by another veteran (Tom Brooke – also easily stealing the film) to do some hush-hush undercover work for the government (aka Tony Curran (also stealing the film) and Brian Cox (credited on the box as Brain Cox)). THE VETERAN’s task: follow some dodgy Arabs around and find a lady double agent (Adi Bielski – given almost nothing to do), and bring her in. Which he does. But then (as we’re only about half an hour in at this point) there are complications: I think the veteran and the lady spy are meant to fall for each other, but Kebbell’s acting deficiencies and charisma bypass clouded that issue somewhat. Then it turns out (surprise!) that maybe the government aren’t the good guys after all, and everyone seems to be a traitor, meanwhile the estate subplot chugs along underneath with THE VETERAN’s pal (Ivanno Jeremiah as a nice Muslim – see, our veteran is not racist) who is struggling with his kid brother who is being seduced by the glamour of violence. It all ends in tears and bloodshed, mostly on the estate.

    It is the gunfight on the estate which is by far the most interesting part of the film. The big problem is that it isn’t earned. I think the film tried to pull a sharp turn: one moment it’s a tense terrorist-busting film then suddenly turns into a ‘look-what’s-happening-on-our-own-streets’ film. But instead of seeming clever yet inevitable it just comes across as ‘we’ve not filled out the running time, let’s add a shoot-out to the end’. But it’s also the best bit of the film, and I found myself thinking ‘ah, the whole point of the film is to reach this, why then did they bother with the silly undercooked spy plot?’

    The plot is constructed perfectly adequately (as my colleague notes, it follows the structural contours of The Bill and there’s nothing wrong with that), but that’s not enough. The film should have been about the perception of Britain becoming a violent place where control is in the hands of terrorists and drug-dealers. It should have been about how violence corrupts, and how difficult it is to tell one side from another. It should have been about the apparent irony of sending soldiers to fight wars abroad when we’re apparently losing wars at home. In all these aims the film fails. It also fails for the most part as a thriller as it is notably lacking in thrills and spills. And it is also desperately lacking as a character study due to Toby Kebbell’s strange belief that he can act. His attempts at intensity just look like someone trying to remember what they were meant to put on a shopping list. There’s a bit where he’s putting on a suit and tie but his inner turmoil and frustration with the world is meant to bubble over and he starts punching the wall; alas, it just looks like the director was telling him to repeatedly squash a fly. At another point he stumbles across one of his pals who’s been duffed up by bad guys; Kebbell walks over quite calmly without surprise or urgency – it’s as if he’s just picking up some post. Kebell’s disengagement with the character (I suppose he was trying to do disengagement with life but it doesn’t come across that way) also undermines the finale. This is something of a set-piece, in some ways ridiculous and in other ways impressive. It turns out that the estate’s drug-dealing baddies are all armed to the teeth, but are (for the most part) quite bad at shooting. This is of course perfectly natural in movies. But we know it’s to be taken seriously as there’s no music and lots of jerky camerawork. And yet still Toby Kebbell cannot master the arts of walking and acting simultaneously. Thankfully he doesn’t do any speaking in this final section, another skill which seems to be beyond him elsewhere in the film.

    THE VETERAN has a few good ideas which get swept away by the demands of the plot (even though the plot belongs in a completely different film) and the film is fatally let down (if I haven’t mentioned it yet) by a leading man who would struggle in an audition for Pinocchio. The conclusion feels like it belongs to a better film, but the film that we are presented with is deeply underwhelming. Ashley Thomas is the real star here, and maybe the film would have been much more interesting if he’d been pitted against the film’s other veteran – the conflicted Tom Brooke character – instead. Oh, and our hero gets kidnapped by Russians at one point (don’t worry – he quickly kills them with little fuss) for no reason that I could work out. If anyone could explain that bit to me I’d be quite grateful.

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