7 out of 10

Release Date: 11th December 2014

Director: Mo Ali (Shank)

Cast: Lars Mikkelsen, McKell David, Adam Deacon, Ashley Walters, Darrell D’Silva, Sinead Michael, Zlatko Buric, Rocky Marshall, Richie Campbell, Oliver Stark, Duane Henry, Kedar Williams-Stirling, Clint Dyer, Ryan Oliva with Brad Moore and Michelle Fairley

Writer: Peter Lowe & Jeremy Sheldon

Trailer: MONTANA


There’s a good level of fun to be had watching Montana. For a Britpic of this kind it’s way above average, on a more general scale it delivers the very least an action film can get away with if you’ve paid for a night out at the flicks. Montana was afforded a limited cinema run and it deserves it. Taking a huge amount of inspiration from Luc Besson‘s 90s action classic Leon it still has enough of it’s own ideas and style to stand on it’s own two feet.

Montana (MCKELL DAVID – #LEGACY is an orphaned drug runner for a heavyweight east European ex-war criminal called Ratko (DARRELL D’SILVA – NORTHMEN). Montana is stitched up when one of Ratko’s footsoldier’s Pitt (ADAM DEACON – COMEDOWN) frames him for stealing some cash at a drugs drop. Ratko suspects that Montana has stolen it or is just plain careless and orders Pitt and the more forgiving Ryan (ASHLEY WALTERS – DEMONS NEVER DIE) to execute him. Little does Ratko know that a vengeful hitman called The Whispering Death (LARS MIKKELSEN – WHAT RICHARD DID) is also in town. The WD wants to kill Ratko in revenge for the killing of his family.  WD rescues Montana from certain death and then sets about teaching how to become a deadly fighter through weapons training and martial arts.

Where Montana excels is in it’s casting. Lars Mikkelsen is a revelation as the taciturn yet deadly assassin intent on avenging his dead family. He is perfectly cast as a force to be reckoned with. He is given added depth by the prescense of a likeable foil in newcomer McKell DavidDavid‘s storyline is a bit far fetched but the young actor convinces well enough and he’s a great contrast to the deathly serious Mikkelsen. The top heavy cast is filled out with about eleven bad guys who all meet grisly ends courtesy to our deadly duo who are intent to level the playing field. Laying waste to more British gangsters than all the Essex Boys films put together it’s an entertaining ride. The action is well-stage and filmed and at times Montana is danger of looking like a real film. There are lots of stock shots of the London skyline at night and this helps to cement the illusion that you could be watching a Michael Mann film. It lacks the pyrotechnics and sheen of it’s American cousins but director Mo Ali (SHANK) can walk away from Montana knowing that he’s done low-budget British cinema a good service by providing a solid 90minutes of good old action entertainent. He even manages to get a decent performance out of Adam Deacon – who plays a stock rent-a-mouth bad man. Elsewhere Ashley Walters hints at greater depths in a small role as Ratko’s more sensitive enforcer and newcomer Brad Moore (THE SEARCH FOR SIMON) (who also produces) impresses as a sleazy undercover detective. Only Michelle Fairley (GAME OF THRONES) is wasted as a senior police woman who only seems to be in the film to bulk out the impressive name cast.

7 out of 10 – A well-cast, well made, solid actioner with an interesting lead cast.  Even though this is essentially ‘Leon-In-Da-Hood’ it’s still an enjoyable enough time passer that delivers on its promises.  Recommended.

Look below for another review by Joe Pesci II



One thought on “MONTANA

  1. Review by Matt Usher aka Joe Pesci II

    Mo Ali previously made the quirky, misguided, occasionally good occasionally terrible near-future gang-warfare adventure yarn SHANK (I’ve just checked: made in 2010 it was set in 2015, so take a look to see what they got right and wrong). His follow-up, MONTANA, is a much more assured film, still off-beat but lacking in originality, a failing which is masked by its success in almost every other area.

    We begin in war-torn Yugoslavia, or at least a big tent pretending to be somewhere in a war-torn zone of horror and death. Bad warlord Darrell D’Silva is up to no good torturing and murdering Lars Mikkelsen’s wife and young son. Mikkelsen is one of those really brilliant assassins you get in films (silent, efficient, clever, frugal, philosophical, calm, ruthless), but even he can’t save the day this early in the film but he manages to escape, battered and bereaved and with a blasted leg, to fight another day.

    Fast forward to present day London. D’Silva is now one of London’s evil migrant crime lords, with an extensive network of dodgy employees, including Ashley Walters and Adam Deacon (both giving their trademark performances – unfailingly irritating and anonymously subdued respectively – but better than usual). Also in his employ is a young boy called Montana, who, being named after the film, is clearly going to be important. The silliness of his name is never explained, nor is his haircut – it’s very pointy and you’ll just want to keep patting it down – it’s the sort of thing which could give his position away if he’s meant to be hiding from foes. Montana is outwardly a perfectly normal kid, he just happens to work for the evil drug overlord who killed his family (though Montana doesn’t know that).

    Then along comes Mikkelsen, who may be reduced to just 3.5 limbs, but is still a fine shot and the sort of person who doesn’t make mistakes and knows how to hold a grudge. Whilst he goes about taking villains to pieces, in-fighting in the gang leads to Montana being declared persona non grata. The film seems very anxious to persuade us that the bad guys really are bad guys because they want to kill a teenager – tch! Haven’t they seen any of Simon Phillips’s abortion-fiestas? Anyway our titular hero teams up, reluctantly at first, with sad Mikkelsen, and then becomes his protégé like in STAR WARS. Throw in a damsel in distress, some evil double-crossing policemen (you know the sort – more criminal than the criminals but stupider and clumsier), lots of atmospheric wistfulness and terrible training montages, and a criminally underused Michelle Fairley for no apparent reason (she couldn’t have been doing it because she loved either the script or the character) and you have a surprisingly likeable and pleasantly engaging time-waster.

    If you have accompanied me on my enlightening yet doomed journey through the weird and generally wonderless world of the 21st century low budget British film, you will know that the crime (and particularly gangster) genre is one which has endeared itself to film-makers working on an almost non-existent budget. That’s understandable, but all too often the results underwhelm overwhelmingly. I would guess (because I’m not paid enough to do any research) that MONTANA has had a

    bit more spent on it than, for example, DANGEROUS MIND OF A HOOLIGAN, but even so it’s still a surprise at how it hits the jackpot. It looks like a real film, you know – like the stuff you can see at the pictures with Americans in. You can believe in locations like Mikkelsen’s hovel; and thankfully there’s no sign of the car park near where Nick Nevern lives. The fights and violence are well choreographed and shot, actors look like they are undergoing the emotions that they’re meant to be expressing, and London is rendered more grimy than in say WELCOME TO THE PUNCH without just being a cesspool.

    The only problem (apart from the massive debt the film owes to LEON and all those other heart-warming films about unhappy assassins bonding happily with unloved children) is the film’s predictability. At one point about halfway through you do wonder which way the central relationship is going to go, but once that resolves itself the rest of the film follows all the usual rules of the genre, which means that the final half-hour shoot-out is about twenty minutes too long. But even that isn’t too much of a problem because as well as looking and behaving like a real film, its big strength is its actors. Lars Mikkelsen (who was really good as Rupert Murdoch a dubious newspaper proprietor in Sherlock) is brilliant in what is after all a stock role: the noble killer bent on one last bout of vengeance/justice who takes a prospective opponent/ally under his wing before going into the last battle. Mikkelsen gives the role much more respect than it deserves and as a result turns the film from a pot-boiler into something just that little bit more inspired. And McKell Celaschi-David in the title role isn’t far behind, elevating the equally hackneyed role of betrayed kid turned criminal protégé about to go down the path of violence and having to choose between righteous indignation and greedy remuneration (a few shots could’ve done with being retaken I suppose but on the whole he takes an awkward part and does a lot with it – if only the script had done a bit more with it as well). (But I really did want to keep patting his head down – it is a very pointy haircut.)

    MONTANA is worth watching on a number of levels: it’s decent on its own terms, as a ‘Britpic’ it knocks almost all opposition into the proverbial cocked hat (what is a cocked hat?), and it also gives Lars Mikkelsen a chance to shine without us having to read what he’s saying. Although not perfect, MONTANA is the best film of its type to come my way since 4321 (that’s a depressing thought).

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