5 out of 10
Release Date: 24th April 2009 (DVD Premiere)
Director: Steve Kelly (The Shouting Men)
Cast: Tamer Hassan, Myanna Buring, Danny Dyer, Natasha Williams, Kenny Doughty, James Lance, Jake Canuso with Susan Lynch and Ray Panthaki
Writer: Simon Fantauzzo
Trailer: CITY RATS
City Rats is an awful title. It evokes predictable expectations of low level gangster shenanigans. City Rats is one of those films based on Le Ronde that generally work despite themselves due to our inherent interest in regular life. Like all films like this though, some of the storylines work better than others. Some of the plot lines in City Rats are compelling and quite brilliant, but then others are baffling and belong to a crap movie. Danny Dyer (DEVIATION) submits one of his best performances since his career as ‘independent’ cinema’s go-to man began. His story strand is my favourite. A largely game cast are challenged by some very strange material, so sadly the end result is fairly mixed. If you look at City Rats as a competent and enjoyable version of the tortuous 7Lives (also starring Danny Dyer) then you’re onto a winner. Comparing this to mighty films like Short Cuts or Grand Canyon will only serve to undermine what a modest little flick this is.
First of all Danny Dyer plays a recovering alcoholic and small time hood who is stalked by a middleaged nurse (NATASHA WILLIAMS) on an unusual quest for answers and ultimately redemption. In another plot, crippled prostitute Susan Lynch (THE SCOUTING BOOK FOR BOYS) who is interviewed about her life by an obsessed neighbour (RAY PANTHAKI – THE MAN INSIDE). Elsewhere a suicidal Tamer Hassan (THE REVERAND) drops watermelons from skyscraper roofs. He only bucks up when he spots fellow suicidal ditherer (MYANNA BURING – KILL LIST) on a nearby roof top. Finally, gay drop out Kenny Doughty (THE CREW) is visited by his deaf and autistic brother (JAMES LANCE – BEL AMI) who is also gay and endeavours to get him laid on a night out. All four of these strands are connected, but how?
Two of these stories work quite well and the other two are too peculiar to convince on their desired levels. Let’s start with the good ones. Danny Dyer‘s through line is the most intriguing and he probably has the plum role as the troubled hood on a path to enlightenment. His interaction with his weird stalker on a mission is brilliant. Special mention goes to Natasha Williams, who is perhaps the most unusual character, looks wise and story wise to have blessed a brit pic in a very long time. It’s a shame that this story was not given enough room to carry the entire movie. It’s a testament to how good Danny Dyer can be. His mucker Tamer Hassan fares less well in a difficult role but he’s way better than we’re used to seeing him. The other good but strange story line is the ‘gay’ brother arc. There are some unexplained aspects to this part of the film but it’s still reasonably compelling and helped by good acting from Doughty and Lance.
Susan Lynch is great as a crippled prostitute but it’s a shame that her section of the film offers nothing new or nowhere to go for the her. Ray Panthaki‘s artist is as poncey and ridiculously annoying as an early 20s hipster I’ve ever met, it doesn’t make for good viewing and their spiring comes across as boring and a hugh waste of running time. Shame really because, Susan Lynch has found a rare role that she can run wild with. Tamer Hassan and MyAnna Buring are left with a great deal of the emotional heft as the pair of potential suicides, but this segment (again despite some good acting) is unconvincingly written. It’s a tight rope walk that only a radical rewrite could salvage. A meet-cute pair of suicides smacks of huge pretensions.
City Rats is a brave little movie in that it tries a lot of different approaches. It’s a great shame that it isn’t successful. The four stories fail to gel, and don’t even seem to be from the same film. The tone weaves wildly from scene to scene, but inspite of all this I liked it more than the majority of indies I’ve sat through recently.
5 out of 10 – Worth seeing for a very good Danny Dyer performance, the strange Natasha Williams and Tamer Hassan not playing a thug. It’s a mixed bag for sure, ranging from quiet brilliance to toe-curling awfulness. But at least it’s intrepid and has ideas to spare. City Rats is different enough to stick in the memory. Awful f*cking title though.
PS: Dyer / Hassan fans. They don’t share any scenes.
Review below by Matt ‘City Prat’ Usher – He didn’t like the title.
WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?
- Tamer Hassan: Our Robot Overlords, The Hooligan Factory, Diamond Heist, The Double (2012), Freerunner, The Reverend (2012), Bonded By Blood, The Hike, Kick Ass, Dead Man Running, The Last Seven, Jack Falls, Sucker Punch (2008), Goal 3, Cass, The Ferryman, Eastern Promises, The Business, The Football Factory, The Calcium Kid
- MyAnna Buring: Hyena, Downton Abbey (TV), Breaking Dawn– part 2, Kill List, Devil’s Playground, Lesbian Vampire Killers, Doomsday, The Descent
- Danny Dyer: Vendetta 2, The Rapture, Eastenders (TV), Assassin (2015), Blood Shot, The Hooligan Factory, Vendetta, Lemon The Vida Loca (TV), Plebs (TV), Run For Your Wife, Deviation, Freerunner, The Age Of Heroes, 7Lives, Basement, Pimp, Malice In Wonderland, Just For The Record, Dead Man Running, Jack Said, Dead Cert, The Devil’s Playground, Doghouse, Adulthood, Straightheads, Outlaw (2007), Severance, The Other Half, The Business, The Football Factory, Wasp (short), Borstal Boy, Mean Machine, High Heels and Low Lifes, Goodbye Charlie Bright, Greenfingers, The Trench, Human Traffic
- Natasha Williams: The Bill (TV)
- Kenny Doughty: In The Blood (2015), The Incident, Stella (TV), The Crew, Crush (2001), Titus, Elizabeth I
- James Lance: The Devil Went Down To Islington, Legendary, Northern Soul, The Look Of Love, Bel Ami, Bronson, Marie Antoinette, Late Night Shopping
- Jake Canuso: Benidorm (TV)
- Susan Lynch: The Scouting Book For Boys, Enduring Love, Someone Else, 16 Years Of Alcohol, Nora,Waking Ned, From Hell, Elizabeth I – The Golden Age, Beautiful Creatures, Downtime, The Secret Of Roan Inish
- Ray Panthaki: Cryptic, Convenience, World War Dead, Jadoo, The Man Inside (2012), Interview With a Hitman, Screwed (2011), Kidulthood, 28 Days Later, Ali G Inda House, Eastenders (TV)