Kidulthood is a hard-hitting drama, showing the fast-paced and excessive lifestyle of a group of fifteen-year-olds from the not-so-glamorous side of West London. The film highlights a range of issues that affect teenagers and their parents, including drugs, promiscuous underage sex and gang crime. The opening scenes graphically depict the problem of bullying, as a schoolgirl is driven to suicide after being victimised by some girls in her class and the local bad-boy, Sam, played by Noel Clarke.
After this, the kids are given a day off school and the story concentrates on the next twenty-four hours, which sees Trife (Ami Ameen) struggling to keep on the straight and narrow while trying to impress his gangster uncle by doing odd jobs for him. He finds out that his girlfriend Alisa (Red Madrell) is pregnant, but that his rival Sam could be the father. Bored and with nothing better to do, Trife and his friends Jay (Adam Deacon) and Moony (Femi Oyeniran) go to the West End, where they wreak havoc and seek retribution against Sam. Meanwhile Alisa, who is coming to terms with her pregnancy, is persuaded by her friend Becky (Jamie Winstone) to take her mind off things with some shopping in preparation for a party that evening. There follows a series of encounters with sleazy older men, in which the girls, particularly Becky, trade sexual favours for money, drugs and alcohol.
As the film's situations come and go, it is very difficult to decide who is taking advantage of whom; while the teenagers are selfish, unscrupulous, and display a casual attitude towards life and other people, the adults seem to be no better. The characters of Trife and Alisa do evolve, but although both come to realise that they are wasting their lives, their search for redemption ends, predictably, in tragic circumstances.
Much of the subject-matter will be familiar to both younger and older viewers, whether through knowing kids like these personally, or from following the news. It is this element which simultaneously makes the film uncomfortable to watch and gives it power, since the story-line accurately reflects common perceptions of what is happening in contemporary English society: that teenagers are out of control, and their parents are hopelessly out of touch. The parental figures are presented as people who are either too busy to deal with their kids, or who try to act cool in order to connect with their children but still fail to understand them.
The street slang adds to the home-grown feel of this production, and the edgy urban soundtrack enhances its highly-charged atmosphere, particularly in scenes involving verbal and physical intimidation. On the downside, the film's effort to cover all the bases with regard to teenage issues sometimes overshadows character development.
The special edition DVD features deleted scenes and interviews with the director and cast members, providing information about how the film was made and offering further insight into the characters from Noel Clarke, who also wrote the screenplay.--Kamran Riaz-Mohammed
Basil Dearden's The League of Gentlemen Review
The League of Gentlemen is a darkly humorous film about a band of disgruntled ex-army officers who carry out a daring bank-raid in a bid to escape from their dull and meaningless personal lives. Directed by Basil Dearden, the film never takes itself too seriously, poking fun at these relics of Britain's military past as they try to fit into the changing world of the post-war period.
Jack Hawkins plays Colonel Hyde, the group's embittered leader, who was pushed out of the army without any acknowledgement of his years of good service. Ever since he has harboured a grudge, using his military know-how to plan Operation Golden Fleece, a heist inspired by an American crime novel, so as to get his just rewards from the establishment. In order to carry out the robbery, Hyde enlists the help of seven former specialist officers, the most prominent of whom are played by Nigel Patrick, Richard Attenborough, Roger Livesey, and Bryan Forbes, who also wrote the screenplay. Knowing that they have fallen on hard times, Hyde offers them a financial incentive to come and meet him, and they do so.
What follows is a classic scene that has been copied many times in films of this genre: the mastermind reveals all and introduces his team of thieves to one another. The interesting thing about these characters is the contrast between what they appear to be and their real selves, which Hyde exposes one by one. Traditionally, British soldiers were portrayed on screen as honourable and courageous, but Hyde's men give a new, paradoxical meaning to the phrase 'an officer and a gentleman.' Each of them has been thrown out of the army for a range of crimes and misdemeanours including black market activities, spying, gross indecency, and homosexual scandals. Nevertheless, the film's cynicism is balanced by its depiction of the characters' complexity. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that although their involvement in Hyde's scheme was initially motivated by the money, their real sense of fulfilment comes from the camaraderie they develop, something they have been unable to find in civilian society.
As in most heist movies, there is no positive conclusion for Hyde's men, but they do end up regaining their self-esteem through this last hurrah, albeit in a twisted sort of way. The film's originality derives from the fact that its characters were refreshingly realistic for the time: their behaviour and habits, some of which would have been considered taboo, are dealt with openly.
The ironic opening sequence, which is among the film's many memorable moments, is typical of the kind of dry humour that ripples throughout this light-hearted production: Hyde, on a night-time reconnaissance mission, emerges from a manhole near the bank wearing a full tuxedo. There are standout performances from all the actors, who deliver the script in a deadpan style and, on occasion, seem almost to play to the camera in this classic gem of early sixties cinema.--Kamran Riaz-Mohammed