On The Big Screen Reviews

The Hard Stop – Review

The world is a precarious one at the moment, especially if you are black. The minority masses are, quite rightly, sick of the corrupt institutions that lay waste their lives because of fear. An unfounded fear, by the way, that is cultivated by organisational racism and hate. The rise of slayings by police have hit a critical point, with the deaths of victims sparking anger and riots in America and the United Kingdom under the name of Black Lives Matter. There has to be a change, especially with the police who handle a gun and chose to kill without a thought, spreading their hate through their brutal policing tactics.

In the UK, we turn to America with a frown like an adult who has an unruly child but, even though we have limited gun violence, we have still killed detendees in prison or during arrest. Of recent years, Mark Duggan’s death at the hands of officers still sends shockwaves in our society. The Hard Stop is an intimate and powerful look at the incident in 2011, the riots that occurred afterwards, and two men battling for justice for Mark.

Directed by George Amponsah, The Hard Stop follows Kurtis Henville and Marcus Knox-Hooke after the death of Duggan, a great friend of theirs. Following their lives after the murder and the spark that lit the whole of London, and parts of the UK, on fire, this intricate documentary looks at Duggan, Henville, and Knox away from the thuggish portrayal the media illustrates them as. The emotional depiction of life on the streets of London always shows a world of racism and brutality also follows the riots in 1985 that saw DC Blakelock murdered on Broadwater Farm and the tension that has mounted between the black community and the police force since. Leading up to present day, The Hard Stop sees Knox and Henville trying to look forward to a brighter future.

Amponsah directs an ardent documentary that showcases the lives beneath the headlines and how people can discriminate without a thought. Following two close friends of Duggan as the try desperately to make sense of events that lead to the death of their friend, as well as navigating the storm afterwards that sees Marcus face trial, attend prison, and be released for supposedly instigating the riots – despite him trying to stop escalation, The Hard Stop becomes a portrayal of the unrest and the experiences of the men involved. Fleshing out the men beyond a face on screen, the almost poetic film tackles racism as well as the paving of the future for all involved.

The social political history and present is rife in Amponsah’s work here but the director is not making brash and damning statements that he could easily have made. He is telling the stories of the pair as they navigate a world so seemingly against them. From their childhood to present day, the influence of gangs and the oppression of the government forces have heavily influenced their lives. Yet Amponsah is determined to showcase the humanity here, an often unseen element to “thuggery” and he succeeds in viscerally and urgently allowing Henville and Knox-Hooke to be themselves, so the audience can see their lives, and learn of their world – the good, the bad, and the grief-stricken

It’s so terribly easy to believe what the media tells you and we all look at others with our unsupported judgement. The Hard Stop looks to tell another side beyond the tabloids and the case rulings. Though the riots contained opportunist and people who didn’t relate to the anger of Duggan’s death – a fact that both involved lament as disastrous and unfair of the peaceful protest – The Hard Stop shows the truth and the souls that are affected by day to day discrimination as they attempt to regain their lives back as well as teach future generations.

In this state of unease, The Hard Stop storms with passion, determination, and significance. There is an importance that lingers from the Martin Luther King quote at the beginning to the Tolstoy one at the end. No second is wasted to allow this very real and devastating world to come to light. With redolent imagery of the pair driving or simply walking down the streets mixed with present interviews and news footage, The Hard Stop makes an impacting statement that lives should not be as wasted as Duggan’s and our own prejudices could hamper the truth.

In this climate, no documentary is as important as The Hard Stop is now.


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