Monday, July 22, 2013

Rowan Athale's WASTELAND: a novice filmmaker offers a tale of novice criminals

WASTELAND may be the full-length film debut of writer/
director Rowan Athale, but it's a surprisingly assured one -- offering a fine sense of milieu, a good grasp of broad-stroke characteriza-tion and a plot that takes awhile to get going but in the final third of the movie takes off like gangbusters. So stick around and be treated to one of the most satisfying vengeance-is-mine movies in some time.

Mr. Athale, shown left, begins his film with a police interrogation: D.I. West (Timothy Spall) questioning a beaten-bloody lad named Harvey, Luke Treadaway (on poster, top, and below, far right), who has quite a story to tell. Immediately we're flashing back to a former time and a tale of the wrongful imprisonment of poor Harvey, who now, quite understandably, wants revenge on the sleazy drug dealer (Neil Maskell) who set him up. To this end he employs his three best friends -- Dempsey (Iwan Rheon, below, near right), Dodd (Matthew Lewis), far left and Charlie (Gerard Kearnes, near left).

So far so good -- if somewhat standard. Yet, as the story unfurls, the milieu is strongly enough created and the characters made real and as full as possible under the 108-minute constraints that we tag along willingly. Also in the mix is the necessary love interest, nicely limned by Vanessa Kirby, below.

You may have, as did I, a little trouble with the British dialects used here, but for the most part, as the story goes on,  your ear will begin to sort them out. (Maybe English subtitles will appear, once the movie makes its way to DVD.)

Beyond that crackerjack last half-hour, what the movie most has going for it are the performances of Treadaway and Spall. The latter has proven himself capable of vast versatility. Here, his penchant for decency is used to excellent effect, making the final portion of the film work quite beautifully.

Treadaway, too, is one versatile actor: From Brothers of the Head through Clapham Junction, Cheerful Weather for the Wedding, Attack the Block and now this, he has not come near repeating himself in any role.

Wasteland (I think a better title might have been thought up for this one), from Oscilloscope, opens this Friday in Los Angeles (at Laemmle's Royal) and here in New York City at the Cinema Village, after which it will open in nine more cities over the next few weeks.  Click here and scroll down to see all currently scheduled playdates.

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