4-3-2-1

7 out of 10

Release Date: 2nd Of June 2010

Director: Noel Clarke (The Anomaly / Adulthood) & Mark Davis

Cast: Emma Roberts, Ophelia Lovibond, Tamsin Egerton, Shanika Warren-Markland, Noel Clarke, Adam Deacon, Kevin Smith, Eve, Mandy Patinkin, Sean Pertwee, Kate Magowan, Ben Miller, Camille Coduri, Ashley Thomas, Alexander Siddig, Gregg Chillin, Helen McCrory, Susannah Fielding, Jacob Anderson, Freddie Stroma, Adam Gillen, Linzey Cocker with Ben Drew and Michelle Ryan

Writer: Noel Clarke

Trailer: 4-3-2-1

4321It’s like Pulp Fiction never happened. Four parallel timelines spin out, UK ghetto style, a four girlfriends get caught up a tangle of adventures that involve stolen diamonds, Pringles, piano lessons, Kevin Smith from Clerks, girls talking about the size of director Noel Clarke’s (STAR TREK 2) dick, and Adam Deacon (MONTANA) in a non-shouty role. It’s great fun if you like this kind of fast moving, action packed, ultra modern thriller comedy. At the time of release the film felt like ti was very ‘of it’s time’ but finally writing my review after a second viewing five years later little has changed in the UK market of films catering for the ‘yoot’. We have all the modern trappings of an attractive, young cast of lead actresses, who are surrounded by a mix of quality supporting actors and ugly-beautiful male actors.

The film felt epic and labyrinth on the first pass but on second viewing the miagician shows his hand and despite it’s glossy cinematography it’s still Hackney masquerading as Hollywood. Each of the four plotlines are lead by a different girl played by a quartet of beauties: we have the American Emma Roberts (SCREAM 4) (niece of Julia, daughter of Eric) as a store cashier who gets involved in her managers shady diamond fencing deal, there’s Ophelia Lovibond’s (GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY) depressive, who is on the run from a female assassin whilst navigating the choppy waters of her parent’s divorce, there’s Tamsin Egerton (GRAND PIANO) who is going to lose her virginity to her online lover (whom she’s never met) in New York and Shanika Warren-Markland (GONE TOO FAR) gets slim pickings as a lesbian locked in a panic room. Each time line evolves to take in some interesting adventures that also come with dose of ‘kitchen-sink’ drama. The film has two directors but this schizophrenic personality disorder doesn’t ruin the enjoyment.

4-3-2-1 looks and feels professional enough and entertaining enough to reward repeat viewing which is an extreme rarity in it’s field. Considering that one of it’s writer / directors have gone on to serve up a huge quanitity of crap, yes Noel Clarke that’s you, it’s rare praise indeed for one of the vainest so-called talents working in UK cinema today (check out The Anomaly and wonder how that ego-crapper was allowed to come to pass).

7 out 10 – The very best of the ghetto youth action dramas? Nearly.

REVIEW BELOW by Joe Pesci II aka Matt Usher

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT PERSON IN BEFORE?

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One thought on “4-3-2-1

  1. 4.3.2.1. – review by Joe Pesci II aka Matt Usher

    Noel Clarke, that fearless chronicler of youthful urban masculinity, attempts his most difficult challenge yet: gazing across the gender divide and seeing how women respond to male shenanigans. The answer appears to be: they run around in their underwear, go shopping (sometimes in underwear) and have group hugs (underwear optional). Yes, this is a film that a ‘lad’ might describe as feminist, just so long as he doesn’t have to explain why Tasmin Egerton eschews trousers for the flimsiest of plot reasons. Sexist claptrap masquerading as feminine empowerment or vice versa? Let’s leave that question to the philosophers/semiologists/people who get paid to write about those things.

    So, this is a lads’ feminist heist gangster soap caper film, and it’s not often you can say that, so congratulations to Noel Clarke for masterminding this silly, enjoyable, clever yet dumb exercise in logical story construction which isn’t as clever as it thinks it is but is a lot better than it had any right to be.

    So, to borrow the film’s blurb, we have 4 Girls (a motley assortment whose friendship is a mystery – supposedly college pals though that seems more than a tad unlikely) who we follow across 3 Days in 2 Cities (London and New York), and they have 1 Chance (to do something unspecified). There’s been a big diamond heist (so big that everyone in the film is glued to the TV watching news coverage) but the diamonds are being channelled through some low-level gangsters in Britain (basically Adam Deacon at his most Deaconian). It’s Friday evening and our protagonists head their separate ways for the weekend. But the diamonds have somehow ended up in Ophelia Lovibond’s possession, except she doesn’t realise it! And she’s feeling neglected and unloved and all alone (and Sean Pertwee plays her dad and he’s really quite bad possibly because he doesn’t get killed)! And then the Bionic Woman (2007 vintage) (Michelle Ryan) springs to the defence (or does she?)! Meanwhile Tamsin Egerton jets off to New York for an audition and to turn some cyber-sex into real sex only to discover that she’s got a diamond too! And she meets Kevin Smith playing a fat courier! Meanwhile token black semi-Brazilian lesbian Shanika Warren-Markland gets locked into a panic room with her girlfriend (Susannah Fielding) whilst her diamond-smuggling half-brother has a party! Meanwhile token American Emma Roberts is at the wrong end of a raid on a corner shop she works in! And she has to fancy writer/producer/co-director Noel Clarke as the diamond-smuggling shopkeeper! (Well, it’s his film, and you get the feeling he really enjoyed making it – the thank-yous on the end credits go on forever, which is either endearing or cringe-inducing.)

    The film follows each girl across the weekend in turn, thus leaving clues and questions about what’s happening elsewhere in the narrative. This device works quite well and more or less guarantees that someone who likes the film first time round will want to watch it again to see how everything slots into place. The problem is that there is a lot of credibility-stretching going on (though the film does acknowledge this occasionally) and some of the mysteries really aren’t worth the bother. And the film-makers seem to have a lucrative product placement contract with Pringles.

    Rather bizarrely, 4.3.2.1. turns out to be quite entertaining, even though it really should be awful. True, it’s ridiculous, contrived and relies on about twelve coincidences too many, but it’s put together and played with verve, and it delights in its own absurdities: the moment Egerton confronts Mandy Patinkin is priceless. Its chutzpah may just be arrogance, but there’s also something weirdly sweet about the film. It trades on clichés and standard story arcs, but jumbles them up into a surprisingly cohesive and not-at-all irritating whole (that’s our quote: ‘Not-at-all-irritating’ – Britpic).

    As well as the main caper plot (one which the girls are completely ignorant of for most of the film’s running time) we also get to see the main characters as their weekend descends into various types of chaos. This also involves ‘issues’ which the film-makers thankfully pay only lip service to. Mothers fare badly, being variously absent, dead or annoying, whilst fathers tend to be push-overs, idiots and idiotic push-overs. Astonishingly, no pregnant woman appears in this film, and therefore at no point does a pregnant woman find herself in peril. Seeing as this is a film stuffed with women, and seeing as it is a British crime film this is nothing short of sensational, a real breaking of barriers – Paul Tanter take note. True, there is a backstory involving an abortion, but that’s inevitable when you’ve got men trying to think about women-things (other women-things in this film: wandering around in underwear, arguing with a dumb bloke about tampons, having one sad sob story per character, being lesbians – the film-makers did lots of research into women I’m sure).

    The cast is an ecletic one. As well as a weird collection of Americans (Roberts, Patinkin, Smith, someone known only as Eve), Clarke rounds up some Doctor Who alumni (including Camille Coduri and Nick Voice of the Daleks Briggs), lots of TV regulars and a number of the usual Britpic suspects. There are decent performances all round, particularly from the leads, and it’s much better performed than I’ve come to expect from rubbishy heisty capers.

    4.3.2.1. has (I guess) so far failed to work its way into the collective consciousness of popular culture, but I suspect it’s the sort of film which may grow in years to come to be seen as emblematic of its time (that’s not necessarily a compliment). But the frenetic editing, and the relentless soundtrack and reliance on gadgetry scream out early 2010s – all this will either date the film quickly or lend it some period charm (or probably both). Yes, this will one day be one of those films everyone gets nostalgic about even if they haven’t seen it. 4.3.2.1. amply repays low expectations (honestly that’s a compliment).

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