2 out of 10

Release Date: 23rd March 2012 (DVD Premiere)

Director: Rishi Opel (Baseline)

Cast: Jamie Foreman, Gordon Alexander, Freddie Connor, Zoe Tapper with Kellie Shirley and Danny-John Jules

Writer: Rishi Opel

Trailer: THE GRIND

The Grind is a funny one….  Bobby (GORDON ALEXANDER – BASELINE) and Vince (FREDDIE CONNOR – GYPO) are two best friends.  Vince runs ‘The Grind’, a nightclub owned by local loan shark, Dave (JAMIE FOREMAN – ST GEORGE’S DAY).  Bobby lives with his invalided mother and a younger brother. He stacks shelves at a convenience store and has no way of paying back a £10k gambling debt to Dave.  When Vince and Bobby’s paths cross again after a few years out of touch the whole situation snowballs.  The reunion triggers Bobby’s descent into a predictable over-acting hell and a  plot that offers no surprises which make this a doubly punishing watch.

There’s a lot wrong with this terminally ill movie. Its not so much how awful it all is, as opposed to how on earth the makers f*cked up a potentially gripping if predictable little gangster movie?  It’s not so much the bad acting that sets this apart, it’s the execution. Some  confusion is caused by the  parts that could be aspiring to be arty, or are they just clumsy mistakes that couldn’t be fixed in post?  I mean, even the extras are bad and that for me is a first. For example, the night club scenes contain a series of overlong dance floor scenes in which said extras (who look like they got rounded up at Job Centre Plus – tracksuits intact) get to cut loose to some minimal house music.  These scenes seem to go on for ages and to make things worse they add nothing to the plot.  When characters speak the background music is drowned out, this makes for a very irritating device.  The use of slow motion at unusual parts of the story are weird as well.  Two characters get out of a car and are watched walking away in Lars Von Trier style slow motion for no reason.  Were they still shooting on film and had to justify the wasted film because they’d accidentally locked the camera in the car? Maybe.

Its not all bad though but when a soundtrack (I’m not talking about the house music in the club) is the best thing about your film it’s time to worry. But The Grind has got a seriously good and effective film score. It adds the needed depth to the characters’ plight. Well, it almost does because nothing can rescue The Grind.  The usually wooden or woefully ripe Jamie Foreman, comes across like acting royalty in this, giving one of his most convincing performances to date.  Jamie Foreman‘s Dave is a believable scumbag and he’s the sole reason for watching the movie.  Everyone else, barring a small appearance by Kellie Shirley (GBH), is stiff and too self-concious to convince.  The two leads, Bobby and Vince are left to swing by the necks.  A bad script, bad blocking, non-existent direction expose their weaknesses as actors.  A rooftop confrontation near the end would make the producers of Hollyoaks hoot with laughter and derision.  The soundtrack carries the inevitable ending but the cinematography was performed by a drunk, the direction was non-existent, the script was full of banalities (it includes a monologue about constipation).  Jamie Foreman, however is great and the film comes to attention when he’s on-screen.  Its a shame he has to share it with a bunch of no-hope wanna-be gangster muppets.  It’s initially refreshing to see a UK gangster movie that wants to be dark and isn’t riffing on stale Guy Ritchie tropes.  But that goodness runs out as soon as you get to one of those crap club scenes.

2 out of 10 – The second point is for the great soundtrack.  Dark, but badly executed and assembled gangster film with predictable plot. Great supporting role from Jamie Foreman though. One of his best bits of acting.  I hope the director, Rishi Opel improves because at the moment he’s coming across as ‘OPELESS. Hahahahahaa. Side note: Red Dwarf fans beware, despite prominent billing and a big picture of his mug on the DVD cover, Danny John-Jules‘ (aka The Cat from RED DWARF) role is very small.  He’s only in it for under ten minutes.

Second review by Matt Usher below.



One thought on “THE GRIND

  1. THE GRIND – review by Matt Usher

    You know a film’s in trouble when the music is the best thing in it, even more so when the music is also pretty bad. Yet somehow the soundtrack to The GRIND does more acting than all the cast combined. It’s one of those films which leaves you wondering why anyone thought it was worth making in the first place. Even more bizarre is the fact that there is another film (BASELINE) which is apparently a remake of this, though it was released first (I shall report back on that one soon).

    The plot concerns two young men who are old friends, though the only indication of this is their surprisingly long hugging – at one point I thought they’d fallen asleep in each others’ arms. One of them, played by Gordon Alexander, is recently out of prison and working at a supermarket. The other, played by Freddie Connor, is the one who probably should have been in prison, and is now running a nightclub owned by the local gangster, played by Jamie Foreman. Meanwhile, Alexander owes Foreman a lot of money, and Foreman likes beating debtors up. We follow Alexander’s desperate/lackadaisical attempts to find the money, whilst Connor discovers his boss is happy to stitch him up after a dodgy drug kills someone, and there’s some tedious book-cooking nonsense.

    Freddie Connor is meant to be a jack-the-lad on the verge of settling down and growing up (I guess), but there is nothing in Connor’s desperately bland performance to indicate any of this, whilst Gordon Alexander is hopelessly out of his depth. Alexander may be a fine stuntman (his CV looks pretty good) but as an actor he lacks ability, vulnerability and charisma. Bearing in mind that he has little stuntwork to do one wonders how the film’s associate producer came to be cast in a leading role. One pleasant surprise is that this is the best performance I’ve seen from Jamie Foreman – an actor I generally can’t stand as he tends to either go over the top or send himself up, like a substandard Brian Blessed imitator. Here he’s restrained yet believably vicious. But he doesn’t make the film watchable. Aside from him, none of the more established names get much to do, and what they do do is pretty disappointing. Characters are introduced but go nowhere. We find the mostly deleted Danny John-Jules as a seemingly bystanding best friend whose influence on the plot is somewhat gnomic, and two equally deleted leading ladies: Zoe Tapper – (often a good actress) must have been hoping this film would never see the light of day: given a wafer-thin character she turns in a paper-thin performance; Kellie Shirley appears purely to get beaten up (annoying because she alone is credibly naturalistic).

    One (very minor and mostly thwarted) strength of the film is that the characters don’t tell the audience things they (the characters) already know. We are left wondering exactly how Alexander and Connor know each other and whether Connor should indeed have gone to jail in Alexander’s place; nor do we ever know the nature of Alexander’s debt. The problem is that the film is so poorly acted and shot that you don’t care how Alexander knows Connor, or how he got into debt or jail. The film’s downbeat naturalism might have been interesting. There are characters here for whom a hundred pounds is a lot of money, rather than loose change. When our supposed hero tries to raid his own place of work, the security guard looks more annoyed than anything. The nightclub at the centre of the shenanigans looks like one of those places where despair goes to die. Against such a deliberately lacklustre background an interesting and genuinely bleak story of desperation could have played out. Sadly the film can’t manage the balance though, and it wants to go down the Tarantino route with pointless slow motion and moments of supposedly brutal and unexpected violence (and the henchman’s complaints about his dodgy tummy are clearly a consequence of the Pulp Fiction hamburgers).

    And the film is incredibly oblivious. For example, our supposed hero tries his luck at cards. The dealer has seen him coming and outwits him. The dealer in question is played by popular illusionist Dynamo. (I hadn’t realised it was he until I saw the credits so I was all ready with some weak joke about Dynamo vanishing from the film. Never mind.) But we don’t actually see the popular conjuror perform any tricks, we just see our supposed hero effectively conning himself out of his cash (it doesn’t help that this sequence is intercut with the film’s opening titles (white names on a black background) so it looks like a cross between Play Your Cards Right and Inspector Morse).

    Our supposed hero, who I guess is meant to be one of life’s lovable losers, is extremely unlikeable, and we’re given no reason to root for him. Instead we are given plenty of reasons to hate him. This means that when the film reaches its conclusion (I couldn’t work out whether this was meant to be a tragically inevitable denouement or a result of the writer not being able to find a way out of the scrape) the viewer barely notices, let alone cares.

    As is often the case with films with short running times (80 minutes in this case) it feels much longer yet has only enough incident for about half the running time. There are a lot of very long sequences set in the exciting new nightclub called The Grind. I quite liked that there was a lot of bad dancing going on, after all not everyone who frequents such places is likely to be trained to a professional standard. But that means you do have to sit through a lot of not very good dancing, accompanied by some not very interesting music. I suppose these sequences are meant to both pad out the running time (which they do) and give the viewer a taste of the atmosphere in The Grind (which they probably do, just not in the way the film-makers probably hoped). But if this is in any way an accurate depiction of the twenty-first century nightclub then I’m happy not to have visited one since the twentieth. It’s more like a (quite large) village hall with a couple of couches.

    THE GRIND lives up to its name – it’s actually quite hard work getting through it, not because it’s gritty and bleak and powerful, but because it’s grindingly boring, grindingly bad, grindingly obvious, grindingly banal, grindingly trite and a bit of a grind.

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