THE DISAPPEARANCE OF LENKA WOOD

6 out of 10

Release Date: TBC (Available on DVD in Germany)

Director: Paul Tanter (Age of the Living Dead (TV) / Kill Ratio / Dystopia (TV) / No Easy Days (TV) /  He Who Dares 2 Meet The Firm – White Collar Hooligan 3 / Shame The Devil / The Hooligan Wars He Who Dares / Essex Boys Retribution / White Collar Hooligan 2 / Fall of the Essex Boys / Rise of the White Collar Hooligan / Jack Falls)

Cast: Mark O’Neal, Petra Bryant, Tom Benedict Knight, Akbar Kurtha, Anais Alvarado, Daniel Berkey, Sefa Kumanaskat with Simon Phillips and Billy Murray

Writer: Paul Tanter

Trailer: THE DISAPPEARANCE OF LENKA WOOD 

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So far without a UK release date, this stands as the ‘lost’ Paul Tanter / Simon Phillips film.  News of a lost film usually picques the interest of film nerds but I wonder what fans of Tanter’s fake hooligan movies would make of this Turkey set kidnap thriller.  It ain’t Kubrick or Gilliam so there won’t be a dissection of it by the BFI in Sight and Sound any time soon BUT….it is a good, solid actioner. Despite, budgetary limitations, this film has a few disarming tricks up its sleeve and for the most part it plays out like a ‘real’ film. With a few more quid in their pockets and another revision of the script this would have been something my Mum & Dad would have liked. As it stands it plays as Paul Tanter‘s best film so far.

Told out of synch in an impressionistic way, the story tells of the honeymoon of Czech girl Lenka Wood (PETRA BRYANT – THE LAST SCOUT) and CIA spook Dexter (MARK O’NEAL – SPECTRAL) in Turkey.  Mysterious local men stalk the newly weds and eventually kidnap Lenka. Then a quest to find the wife with the help of the obstructive police force, led by Tom Benedict Knight (THE CALL UP) ensues.  Meanwhile, there are regular flashbacks to Dexter’s time in the army some years’ before, when he’s conducting an interrogation with another soldier played by Simon Phillips (THE LAST SCOUT) (on top form in a smallish supporting role). What at first spins out of control quickly, turns into something else.

A few minor plot holes aside and some duff fighting scenes, this film has a nicely thought-out intelligent plot with a satisfying denouement. Maybe Paul Tanter has something to say about foreign interventions and the way the guard dog in the west protects our freedoms.  It’s certainly the closest he’s come to making a thoughtful film if you compare this to his He Who Dares movies or his Saw tribute Shame The Devil. Could it be the mild dose of Simon Phillips? He puts in some solid support work here as opposed to his comedy / dramatic mugging, in Lenka Wood. The leads are OK. Mark O’ Neal is an American renta-plank who can carry a tune, Petra Bryant is given very little to do and it’s good that she’s not stretched as signs of strain would endanger the film further. Another standout is Tom Benedict Knight, so bad as the hero in He Who Dares 1 & 2, as the lead Turkish cop.  Also his best yet, although I’ve not seen him in much. Billy Murray (ESSEX BOYS RETRIBUTION) turns up as a dodgy gun dealer / Mr fix-it for a decent cameo too. What he’ll do a foreign holiday in the sun! Look out for Paul Tanter’s micro-cameo who plays the victim of a moped theft…

So there’s fun to be had, and if you don’t read to much into it, it’s a good, light piece of action entertainment. It’s the first competent Paul Tanter film in a long time (I mention The Rise and Fall of a White Collar Hooligan) and its a shame that a UK release is unlikely. However, completists can find a copy of the DVD online at Amazon (that’s how I got Britpic a copy). Paul Tanter completists of the world unite! Or is it just me, Joe Pesci II, Simon Phillips and Paul himself?

6 out of 10 – Entertaining action thriller set in Turkey featuring all our ‘fave’ actors at Brtipic! It’s naff at times and a bit rough at the edges, but I liked it.

Another review below by Matt ‘Spunka Wood’ Usher

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

 

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One thought on “THE DISAPPEARANCE OF LENKA WOOD

  1. Matt Usher reviews…

    If you were to compile a list of the 10 worst British films of the 2010s (a task I have attempted more often than I care to admit) it would be easy to fill it with the work of Paul Tanter, the man who gave us THE HOOLIGAN WARS, ESSEX BOYS RETRIBUTION, SHAME THE DEVIL and JACK FALLS. But THE DISAPPEARANCE OF LENKA WOOD need not join them. It is an underwhelming and mostly uninteresting morsel, but it does not plumb/scale the depths/heights of dismalness that is the usual Tanter hallmark. So, if you’re looking for a truly dreadfully dire night’s entertainment, this is not the film you’re looking for. But if you’re curious to see what the Tanter stable can produce when it’s not chronicling the exploits of Essex hooligans, then this is a moderately interesting surprise.

    Inspired, I guess, by the similarly-titled THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ALICE CREED, this could easily have been yet another rubbish Tanter-Phillips rip-off of a better film. And in terms of plot and character revelations, the film it’s modelled on still holds all the cards. But THE DISAPPEARANCE OF LENKA WOOD is worthwhile, up to a point. Well, I say worthwhile, what I probably mean is: it isn’t the worst film Paul Tanter has put before the paying public (though this one has yet to officially reach British shores – its lack of release so far certainly doesn’t relate to its quality – maybe it’s the hooliganlessness, or the portrayal of the British armed forces as war criminals which is responsible) (and for one, brief shining moment I thought the German DVD might not play, but curse the EU, we’re in the same DVD region – I hope Brexit puts an end to that). So, if you’re a fan of either of the film’s creative masterminds (yes, Simon Phillips is involved in this one too!) this might be an odd experience. Compared to their previous collaborations, LENKA WOOD approaches the grey hinterlands of moderate competence. Judged by the normal criteria of normal films, it’s sub-average tat. But the oddity of the film doesn’t just lie in its being halfway decent, but in its genre. This is no football hooligan vengeance thriller cum crap comedy caper. Nor does it seem to have been filmed by a hyperactive, drunk cameraman. Indeed, one might even accuse Mr Tanter of attempting to ape the style of, say, Steven Soderbergh in TRAFFIC, or some similarly serious film-maker. And the film’s faults feel more like genuine failures of aspiration, rather than the usual hooligan film failure where you know they didn’t have time to do a retake, or hadn’t thought about the plot properly.

    Our hero is an American ex-soldier (Mark O’Neal – agreeably stolid), celebrating a semi-secret marriage to the titular future-abductee (Petra Bryant – better than she at first seems) by going off to Turkey for a honeymoon. Alas this soon turns out to be an idea as bad as spending Christmas in Albert Square. No sooner have they had their first bite to eat than Lenka is kidnapped by foreign ne’er-do-wells. Her husband is distraught, but he’s an American soldier and is made of stern stuff, so we follow him as he investigates the crime. Occasionally we cut to Lenka in a cell, but there’s not much going on in that story-strand for reasons later revealed, though it gives the film-makers an opportunity to pop the actress into her nightie, which is completely reasonable given the storyline, and is definitely not gratuitous. No.

    So our US marine goes about his business trying to find his wife, but finds only that the authorities are somewhat less than helpful, what with them all being dodgy anti-American foreigners. Indeed, it soon becomes apparent that the Turks are up to no good. The police officers are all corrupt and secretive, every barman is an assassin, every shopkeeper a government informer. Truly this is the tourists’ nightmare, but there’s more to it than just unhelpful foreigners: there’s a conspiracy afoot, or at least that’s what our hero thinks. Unfortunately his attempts to blow the whole thing wide open are frustrated by Tom Benedict Knight (the villainous – or is he? – police chief) who spends his time looking broodingly suspicious (to be fair, this is easily Knight’s best performance – and I completely forgot about his monkey-impersonating antics from HE WHO DARES).

    But although all these foreigners are being beastly and obstructive, is it possible that there’s method in their machinations? Perhaps the root of the trouble might be found in the flashback story which is periodically interspersed into the principal narrative. Here we find our hero in his soldier days teaming up with Simon Phillips. They’re hanging about in a desert (which may be a beach in Kent). Despite being troops belonging to the fabled US-UK-best-buddies-forever-special-relationship-alliance-thing they’re clearly up to undercover villainy. They’re a far cry from the heroic officers of the SAS whose exploits Messrs Tanter and Phillips so poorly chronicled elsewhere, though, to be honest, they’re a lot more competent. Unusually in these sequences, that enigmatic British film polymath Phillips gives a performance which I can happily describe as more than adequate. Indeed these scenes are the more intriguing in the film and may even suggest that Tanter’s current TV projects may be a step in the right direction.

    It’s odd to use a phrase like ‘artistic development’ when discussing the perpetrators of this sort of nonsense, but it’s possible that this film represents exactly that in the Tanter oeuvre (or, more likely, a deliberate attempt to mine a different source material for inspiration/exploitation). It is (in Tanter terms) solidly crafted, reasonably well acted, and well plotted (though there are significant plot holes). It’s also (still in Tanter-terms) a bold and unusual film, devoid of football hooligans (true most of his films don’t have hooligans in them but you know what I man). Tanter fans should approach with caution: for once you may not get what you expect. A goodish film.

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