Directed by Alex Pillai. Starring Ashley Chin, Jason Maza, Ashley Madekwe, Michael Maris, Adam Deacon, David Harewood, Letitia Wright, Shanika Warren- Markland 15A cert, Cineworld, Dublin, 86 min
ALEX PILLAI, director of this achingly well-intentioned British street drama, has been unlucky in his timing. Victim emerges just two weeks after Ben Drew’s vastly superior Ill Manors. Both films make an effort to contextualise the lives of inner-city tearaways. Drew’s effort buzzed with imagination and original thinking. Pillai’s piece feels clumsy and forced.
Victim hangs around a group of youths who have devised an original scheme for relieving the idle rich of surplus wealth: a good-looking female flutters her way into the players’ apartment and the gang then rifles through the mark’s drawers. Happily, there always seem to be bags of loot lurking beneath the socks and underwear. Then, booted up by split-screen, they enjoy themselves in noisy clubs.
The gang members are not all decadent layabouts, however. It transpires that Tyson (Ashley Chin) uses the money to support young Nyla (Letitia Wright), his intelligent, spirited sister.
The siblings’ mother makes rare, drunk appearances to bellow selfishly at the compromised chap. Tyson’s efforts to balance family responsibilities with life as a master criminal cause inevitable conflicts.
You can’t fault Pillai’s ability to pack a great deal in a small space. Every character has a backstory. Everybody is – as the title suggests – to some extent a victim of his or her circumstances. But the storytelling is so lumbering that the film rapidly takes on the quality of community theatre. The most clumsy section finds a teacher asking Nyla and her classmates to compose a poem explaining the tensions in their lives. Pillai must surely view the cool educator as something of a surrogate figure.
It would, however, be mean-spirited to pick on Victim. The picture, shot in gritty locations with a confident young cast, has its heart in the right place. Maybe that’s the problem. A touch more creative ambivalence would have done no harm.