SHIFTY

7.5 out of 10

Release Date: 24th April 2009

Director: Eran Creevy (Autobahn / Welcome To The Punch)

Cast: Daniel Mays, Riz Ahmed, Jason Flemyng, Nitin Ganatra, Jay Simpson, Dannielle Brent, Eddie Webber, Kate Groombridge with Jason Maza and Francesca Annis

Writer: Eran Creevy

Trailer: SHIFTY

Review by Matt Usher below:

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

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One thought on “SHIFTY

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

    To see one good Britpic in a month is unexpected. To see two in a week may be unprecedented – I had to have a lie-down. Are my standards slipping? Or was I lucky? SHIFTY isn’t the greatest film ever made, but it has a huge amount going for it, is extremely watchable and enjoyable (these are surprisingly rare qualities at times in low-budget British cinema). There are a few big flaws, but it’s one to put in the ‘slightly more than promising and at times downright quite good, even occasionally very good’ category.

    Initially, though, the heart sinks: it’s a man on a bus movie. And it’s Daniel Mays, so he must have just come out of jail. I laboured under this misapprehension / prejudice for some time before finally being convinced that he really was just visiting from Manchester. But honestly, all the clues pointed to him being a jailbird. And he’s not even our eponymous hero, as Shifty is a drug dealer (on the outskirts of London according to the DVD blurb (so probably miles away in somewhere like Slough)) and is played by Riz Ahmed. We meet him on a day when everything goes upside down for him. This is admittedly the weak element of the film, but it’s hardly the end of the world that all these things happen so closely. First up he sees old pal Daniel Mays who disappeared to the frozen wastes of Manchester four years previously after a dodgy drug left a girl dead. Meanwhile Shifty’s brother (Nitin Ganatra) – who is of the ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ persuasion – finds out where the rent money’s coming from and isn’t too happy about it. Meanwhile Jason Maza sells some dodgy video cameras and Jay Simpson plays a demented builder whose drug addiction leads him to desperate measures, while his wife does the ironing.. And Jason Flemyng menaces anybody who comes near him, for no obvious reason other than he’s Jason Flemyng and that’s what he does. By comparison, Shifty is basically a nice drug dealer – he tells some kids off for playing their music too loud and upsetting the neighbours (Francesca Annis strangely cast in a superfluous cameo) though he does then proceed to terrify them into becoming his customers.

    Good things about SHIFTY: it’s not preachy, race is not an issue, it puts its characters first. The two leads are incredibly believable as best buddies separated by circumstance and stupidity. It’s a story which is rooted in dreary, drab, normal houses and estates; this is reflected in the filming which is subdued without being self-consciously depressing. It’s effectively shot like a very standard TV drama, with no editorial frills or trickery, and that serves to push the focus onto the actors, all of whom are well cast and produce performances which are spot on. It’s neither hyper-realistic acting nor ‘look at me I want a BAFTA’ grandstanding, but a collection of quiet, believable performances, nicely reflecting the mounting tensions that the characters are undergoing. But it’s mostly about Ahmed and Mays – you actually believe they are friends from years back, and that there is something genuine about their awkward relationship as they simultaneously mess about and argue, and realise how things change and stay the same.

    Bad things about SHIFTY: the plot is a little pat, and the film-makers don’t quite pull off the idea that all these things could happen in such a brief period, and the rug-pull near the end, although well done, is not a surprise. And despite Riz Ahmed giving an excellent performance in the title role, the film doesn’t quite feel as if it should be named after him (it may simply be because Shifty’ problems are more about circumstance than about his character as such – or maybe the problem is that I’ve seen too many eponymous plays about characters with tragic flaws). This isn’t a criticism of the actor or the writing, it’s just that the film has other things going on, perhaps SHIFTY AND CHRIS might have been better title purely because the film is more about their relationship than it is about just Shifty himself (actually it’s a rubbish title but they could have changed Chris’s name to something that might’ve made it more intriguing). And occasionally the dialogue bogs itself down in a dull flurry of f***-yous, though this is hardly a unique failing.

    Eran Creevy wrote and directed this, and it’s much better than his over-produced, vacuous, glacial, empty, tedious, soul-banishing follow-up WELCOME TO THE PUNCH. SHIFTY is a good, unpretentious, simple bit of film-making. The plot doesn’t really add up to much, which is just as well as it unravels the moment you start to think about it, but it works simply as a decent film about some well-drawn, extremely well-acted characters.

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