Anyone waiting for the next British Shallow Grave won’t find it in the Salford-set ensemble comedy, Strangeways Here We Come, an enthusiastically performed but distasteful caper in which a group of none-too-likeable estate residents band together to rid themselves of an oppressive loan shark (Stephen Lord). It is the sort of film that mixes together Mormon bashing, postman trashing, vomiting, happy pills, community gardens and sex addiction all set to music from bands selected by Terry Christian.
Writer-director Chris Green has corralled a group of ‘them off the telly’ including Michelle Keegan and James Foster from Coronation Street as well as Lauren Socha (Misfits), Oliver Coopersmith (Humans) and Chanel Cresswell (This is England) in a film that finds a level of irritability and raises it to eleven. It is the sort of material that might make an ITV comedy mini-series rather than something you would spend five-ninety-nine at a Vue cinema using the app.
When a postman is attacked for delivering ‘bad news’ (a bill), I shuddered. Residents mocked a pair of Mormons delivering Seven Day Adventism. A girl curses a boy who vomited on her. There is a boxer (Foster) who had a stroke, which continues to afflict him and a cab driver who has a drunken one night stand with a young student and then asks if she is pregnant. ‘Mixed race kids are always beautiful, even when the parents are ugly.’
If the jokes aren’t painful enough, there is also a boy, Aaron who has a Superhero badge on his chest with the letter ‘A’, which might just as well say ‘autism’. He wears the outfit out of a promise made to his dead mother as he reveals on the one year anniversary of her death.
There is one passable joke. A cabbie walks into Aaron’s front room, decorated with fairy lights and a cardboard cake and exclaims, ‘this is Narnia’. After that you are starving.
The film takes half an hour to decide on a plot, ten minutes to knock off Nolan, using a mix of strangulation and kitchen utensils and the remaining forty-odd minutes to unwind. Elaine Cassidy (No Offence) makes a late appearance as a woman who wants to know where Nolan is and is more vicious than the thug she has by her side.
There is nothing wrong with a black comedy that shows wit and imagination but at a certain point the entire cast is trapped in a garden shed and the outcome is literally a cop out. This is followed by a drugged up woman having sex.
If Manchester wanted to replace London as the centre of culture in England, it will have to do a lot better than this. If you want a black comedy, go rent Alice Lowe’s Prevenge instead.
Strangeways Here We Come is out in cinemas Friday!