TANK 432 – BELLY OF THE BULLDOG

3 out of 10

Release date: 22nd August 2016 (DVD Premiere)

Director: Jim Gillespie

Cast: Rupert Evans, Deirdre Mullins, Michael Smiley, April Pearson, Steve Garry, Alex March with Tom Meeten and Gordon Kennedy

Writer: Jim Gillespie

Trailer: TANK 432

belly_of_the_bulldogThere are some ideas at play here in Tank 432, except I don’t know what they were, so incomprehensible is its story.  The plot is so convoluted and wilfully confusing it’s doesn’t make for a good 90 minutes of film viewing. And that’s disappointing because all the ingredients are present for an intriguing ‘men on a mission movie’.

Like R-Point and Deathwatch before it, this chooses cryptic over creepy. As a horror, Tank 432 lacks chills, thrills or atmosphere. So therefore its an exercise in flatness. Several soldiers are on a hostage taking mission, they come under fire and take shelter in a Bulldog tank. The leader Sgt. Smith (GORDON KENNEDY – THE BORDERLANDS) knows more than he’s letting on, and as the body count rises the soldiers slowly discover that’s what’s happening to them is no accident. What role will the tank play in their future, can they escape the belly of the bulldog once they become locked in, who are the spectres in insect masks, and what’s the orange powder they encounter going to do to their minds? The above average cast is squandered and they struggle to make sense of the repetitive and clunky script. Kennedy suffers the most with the worst dialogue, and the usually dependable Michael Smiley (KILL LIST) over plays his lunatic. Elsewhere, Rupert Evans (THE MAN IN THE HIGH TOWER) and Deirdre Mullins (MAN DOWN) take the nominal leads. They both do well, expect for a horror there’s but one memorable death. All the other death’s are unforgettable and pretty unshowy.

Boasting Ben Wheatley as producer, and some good cult actors, Tank 432 stalls and refuses to evolve into anything interesting. Even the final reveal is botched, making the ‘twist’ in the tale a nonsensical cherry on the cake. Director Nick Gillespie is Wheatley’s regular cinematographer but it looks like this leg up was a generous move as the director and writer has a long way go to be anywhere near good as him.

 3 out of 10 – Flat action horror that goes nowhere and squanders interesting ideas and good actors. Ultimately, it’s boring and confusing. Stank 432.

Another review below!

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

 

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One thought on “TANK 432 – BELLY OF THE BULLDOG

  1. Review by Matt Usher

    Some soldiers are on a mission. They’re pretty hopeless soldiers, though that is, to some extent, the point. But they really are incredibly bad. They seem to be mercenaries (though this is meant to be ambiguous) and they’ve rounded up a couple of hostages who may or may not be bad people (one of them turns out to be a teacher who knows about obscure Greek legends) (so probably not a teacher) (again the nature of the hostages is ambiguous).

    The mission (the exact nature of which is ambiguous) sort of goes wrong when the dismal troopers get spooked by their own shadows and they run off and take shelter in a conveniently abandoned tank. The nature of their assailant(s) is ambiguous. Unfortunately they get themselves locked into the tank, the fools. At the end someone leaves the tank by opening the door: I’m not sure if it was meant to be comic, or whether it was a hugely important plot point, but it plays ridiculously. Maybe it was meant to be ambiguous.

    They spend most of the film sitting in the tank (presumably tank number 432 – that may be ambiguous or it may have been painted on the tank in giant orange letters – I don’t remember). One of them spends some time scribbling. What is he scribbling? It’s ambiguous. Everyone else falls asleep. Sometimes they wake up and have arguments then go back to sleep. It’s a bit like Bagpuss. One of them tries to get into the cabin to drive the tank, but he goes to the toilet instead. OK, maybe not Bagpuss. The claustrophobic terror of the situation (they’re besieged from outside and prey to their own demons within) doesn’t even begin to register. They might as well be at home watching TV.

    Eventually various internal and external pressures combine and the film attempts a climactic sequence of unutterable foolishness, before we get the not particularly surprising, yet supposedly ambiguous, twist.

    Having not bothered with much of a setup, the film finds it difficult to then pull the rug out from under it/us. Is the film set in Britain? It looks like a blandish bit of British countryside – it’s certainly not Iraq. So what are they doing in Britain? Taking hostages apparently, though it soon turns out that they’re more dispensable than some random person they find in a box. Is there any sign of an enemy? Not really apart from some ghostly gasmask wearing flamethrowing bad guys who aren’t typical enemy combatants so it’s fair to assume it’s all some sort of evil test. And indeed it is. What a surprise.

    TANK 432 may best and most succinctly be described as preposterous, pretentious codswallop of the lowest order. (I hope that’s not too ambiguous.)

    The DVD’s publicity proudly proclaims the film is ‘from executive producer Ben Wheatley’ which is fair enough. But putting Wheatley’s name there is an invitation to look at the film as a Wheatley film rather than as the feature debut of writer-director Nick Gillespie. As a Wheatley film it’s terrible. As a Gillespie film it has moments of

    promise but mostly feels like an ‘I-wanna-be-Ben-Wheatley’ film, largely because it is. At times it even feels like a send-up of the Wheatley oeuvre (all that ambiguity slopping about all over the place, and some moderately self-conscious splashes of gore, goo and grotesquery). But the only positive thing to take away from the film is that it shows just how good a director Ben Wheatley can be. This is absolutely his sort of material, and in a lot of ways it’s his approach too, but Gillespie somehow manages to get each element wrong at almost every point. There’s a lot here that could have worked, but as Spike Milligan said about Tommy Cooper: timing is absolutely crucial and he absolutely failed to hit the mark every time (the difference being that with Cooper it was deliberate). Take the grand finale as the tank chases around after some drunken fool: the film is clearly aiming for a kind of epic folly feel; but it only achieves the folly bit. It’s probably meant to be a comment on how the military might of the lumbering superpowers will never quite smash the agile, fleet-footed freedom-fighting-terrorists or something. I guess the moral is that the powers that be (in this case probably a private defence contractor with government links) will sacrifice the common man in the interests of power, which is hardly a revolutionary revelation.

    Actors like Gordon Kennedy, Michael Smiley and Rupert Evans aren’t all good all of the time, but it takes some doing to have them all bad at the same time. I mean, they’re all pretty much fine actors, but they seem unprepared, occasionally giving Naked Gun style straight faces. Look at poor Tom Meeten. True, he’s best known for comic roles, but here he plays a seemingly shell-shocked out-of-his-depth soldier. Alas it looks like he’s doing an impersonation of Rodney from Only Fools and Horses (and I never saw the going of him – though again I think that’s meant to be part of the film’s ambiguity).

    The dialogue is meant to be gritty I suppose, but ultimately comprises of little more than very incoherent repetitive swearing. The director has an eye for visuals when doing some arty flashback hallucinations, but that’s all they come across as: arty directorial flourishes rather than essential storytelling imagery. For the most part the story is shown flat, almost as flat as the unfortunate but inevitable victim of the tank’s method of mobility.

    Whereas Wheatley can mix uneasy comedy and horror, Gillespie seems to be trying for just the horror. And ends up with comedy. There’s some swirling, sterling, poundingly patriotic music, which does at times improve things, but more often only underlines the wholly misbegotten nature of this silly film. I wish the director had felt free to make his own more conventional film. Instead, this is a case of imitation being the unwisest form of flattery.

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