4 out of 10

Release Date: 20th October 2014 (DVD Premiere)

Director: Ben Pickering

Cast: Matt Di Angelo, Stephen Marcus, Alan Ford, Lili Bordan, Darren Ripley, Velibor Topic, Jeff Leach, Anna Passey, Christian Brassington, George Weightman with Frazer Hines and Ricky Groves

Writer: Darren Ripley

Trailer: THE SMOKE


TO BE PROOFREAD: Inexplicably, The Smoke has been kicking around the top 30 best selling UK DVDs for months now. Just who is buying it? Well I’m afraid we were early to purchase it on release nearly three months ago but as I write in late December 2014 – it’s still a fixture at the local supermarkets and shops. There are worse London gangster capers around but The Smoke is still pretty lightweight and unoriginal.

Featuring various aluminus from Eastenders and Dr Who this comedy thriller has more twists than a Curly Wurly but inspite of this its still lame. The tone is wildly uneven as we witness comedy hitmen, cold executions and insincere attempts at rom-com. There are no terrible performances from a game cast but its all so frivolous and forgettable it’s a tough one to recommend. This is a shame because there’s so much to talk about when a film is brilliant or absolutely dire – aside from a funny cameo from Ricky Groves (EASTENDERS) it doesn’t really stick around long enough to be offensive or memorable. Veering for slapstick to cold-heartedly brutality from scene to scene indicates that this is a badly made film that’s received a last minute rescue attempt in the edit. Conversations about Star Wars come across as hollow and out-of-date homages to Quentin Tarantino. Alan Ford (STRIPPERS VS. WEREWOLVES) is also wheeled and wound up like a cockney gangster equivalent of a clockwork mouse. The poor man must get tired of young directors asking him to play Brick Top from Snatch (one last time). It’s a pleasure to watch him play to his strengths but he’s painted what careers path he’s got into a corner. Even Scandinavian filmmakers have got in the act by casting him as a London crim in the recent The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared. Hitherto unknown (to me) Matt Di Angelo  (EASTENDERS) is an ex-Eastenders hunk who makes a pretty fair attempt at leading man and he would well transcend his soap opera origins – he’s watchable and perhaps the reason why this DVD is still selling well. Elsewhere, reliable character actor Stephen Marcus (INTERVIEW WITH A HITMAN) has an unenviable job of playing joint walking cliche with the writer of the piece Darren Ripley (THE STRANGER) – as one half of a duo of dopey hitmen on Matt Di Angelo‘s trail.

Shit, the plot is so unmemorable I forgot to give it an overview. Matt plays a recently sacked banker, who’s girl dumps him on the same day. Over hearing the details of a money for drugs swap at Heston Services on the M4 he coincidentally spots the car (by it’s reg when he looks out of a cafe window). Terrible plot coincidence. So he steals the car but also rescues a call girl (LILI BORDAN) who works for the drug barons – hence the dopey hitman and Alan Ford‘s presence. And so on…. I think.

In short, there’s plot holes, far-fetched coincidences to get around and the promise of a get away to Paris on the DVD cover and throughout the script that may happen (I can’t remember). It’s lazy, but light. Well performed but unworthy. In fact the whole film is a little like smoke itself. Light and annoying.

4 out of 10 – Below average thriller-action-rom-com that attempts to please everybody but fails on most counts. It’s so light it won’t put you out though. A playful cast just about rescue this from being utterly terrible.

REVIEW by Joe Pesci II below



One thought on “THE SMOKE

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

    THE SMOKE is so unremarkable and so forgettable a film that I almost forgot that I’d seen it, let lone had to review it. Perhaps that’s all you need to know. But on the other hand maybe it’s fun at the time?

    No. This is a film you forget whilst watching it. The film-makers don’t help by casting half a dozen identical actors as the hero and his pals, and half a dozen identical actresses as the women who appear for decorative (i.e. breast-exposing) purposes only. So you never know who’s doing what or why. But I’ll try to explain anyway, though you may as well stop reading now as there’s no way to make this film interesting.

    Our hero is a banker. Yes. This is a film which really knows how to identify the little man ground down by the system. (Actually he’s a lawyer but he works in some sort of investment bank so it’s the same thing in my book.) So, yes, our hero is one of those ****s who stole all our money a few years back and blamed it on shops and disabled people. Great start. The film-makers (probably all ex-bankers who ought to be in jail for starting the banking crisis and recession decided to try their luck in showbiz) have spotted this potential flaw, so they make our hero lovable by (a) casting an actor called Matt Di Angelo (he’s from Eastenders and looks agreeably flustered yet pretty) and (b) having him sacked by Doctor Who’s Jamie McCrimmon (Fraser Hines) after getting the blame for someone else mistaking a couple of strippers for a charitable church.

    As our hero wanders away he wonders who might have sent the stripping nuns. This is a good question. It is never answered. But our hero has other problems: he’s been dumped by his girlfriend who’s gone off with his other best mate, and she’s evicting him from the flat (a banker facing homelessness – how terrible!). Being a banker (ex) our hero heads off to the nearest nightclub for an evening of drugs, debauchery and moaning to one of the identikit best friends. Oh, and he overhears some villains discussing a drugs/money hand-over in considerable detail due to the magic of voices carrying through a ventilation system – a bit like in the Woody Allen film ANOTHER WOMAN though I suspect that’s just a coincidence. But, as the tag line of the film points out ‘There’s no such thing as coincidence’. Which is another way of saying ‘we didn’t notice the massive coincidences till we were making the publicity otherwise we’d have had at least one character say ‘what a coincidence’ when they started to pile up’. And pile up they do.

    Because the very next day our hero happens upon the very car the villains mentioned, abandoned by someone who looks like the hero’s best friend but isn’t, and in a moment of banker-drug-fuelled inanity our hero steals it and drives to the hand-over. The hand-over having taken place he runs off with the money, and phones a friend (who may or may not be the friend from earlier) who is unable to enjoy our hero’s excitement as he’s on the way to hospital after a young lady (who looks like the striptease nuns but probably isn’t either of them) has unhelpfully inserted something naughty in an unwise place. This is the nearest the film gets to a comic highlight.

    Bereft of his pal, our hero encounters a woman (Lili Bordán) (who looks like all the other women we’ve seen so far) who jumps into his car and tells him to drive. She’s a prostitute who just happens to be on the run from the Dodgy Foreigner whose money our hero has stolen! This coincidence also goes by unremarked. Inevitably they fall in love across a period of about two minutes (helped by a questionnaire of breathtaking stupidity – Stones or Beatles? Favourite Bond?) (Our hero answers Stones and Lazenby, thus proving that he’s sensitive and individualistic though our heroine could have interpreted those answers as meaning he’s a drug-addled never-was).

    The usual complications ensue, with bad guys on our hero’s tail. And what bad guys they are. Twenty years after Travolta and Jackson bored us all to death going on about burgers, here we have Stephen Marcus and Darren Ripley arguing about STAR WARS and THE GODFATHER. We even have a comic moment where they accidentally kill someone. Then it tries to get metaphysical by having them pre-empt this very review by discussing the deficiencies of film critics.

    It all ends happily with bad guys mostly dead and good guys mostly alive, though there is of course a twist ending so tedious that you can’t actually call it a twist. And before you know it, you’ve forgotten it ever happened. This is a good thing.

    Alan Ford turns up as the Mister Big, and he does his usual turn, but he does at least seem to be awake unlike the rest of the cast. Di Angelo and Bordán spend most of their time bored or depressed, wafting about in an apathetic fug of indifference as the contrived machinations envelop them in a finale of stunning insubstantiality. In fact everyone seems bored or depressed, even Darren Ripley who is presumably fulfilling a life-long wish to, erm, play a rubbish gangster in a rubbish film which he’s written.

    THE SMOKE probably thinks it’s a clever, cool film with lots of crazy ideas. It isn’t. It’s empty, almost flashy, moderately competent fluff. It’s also meant (I think) to be some sort of homage to London (our hero has a dull speech about what a great city it is), but like the coincidences, this just seems to be a tacked-on afterthought. London happens to be in the film, which is bad luck for London and I suppose THE SMOKE is a better title than THE ONE I WATCHED THE OTHER DAY THEN FORGOT ABOUT which is how I think of it.

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