Directed and Written by #StevenMurphy
Indie Film Review by Jack Bottomley
The British gangster or British crime genre is chock full, with new additions to it landing most weeks on DVD shelves. Unsurprisingly Guy Ritchie is often placed at the very top of this genre as one of its leaders but there are many other worthwhile pictures out there from a range of filmmakers, from Jonathan Glazer’s Sexy Beast and Matthew Vaughn’s Layer Cake to Brian Helgeland’s Legend and Ben Wheatley’s Down Terrace. And it is that last example that writer/director #StevenMurphy’s film Relentless shares the closest strands of DNA with, add the Brit crime thriller beats of films like Craig Viveiros’ The Liability and lawless (comedically laced) redemption stories like Jeff F. King’s Damage and you have the completed filmic molecule.
Set and filmed in Bournemouth, Relentless sees ex-convict Jake (Murphy) released from prison, aiming to stay out of trouble for just one day before he begins a new life. However, trouble soon finds him, as Jake comes to the aid of young prostitute Ava (#Tiffany-Ellen Robinson), which puts them both in the sights of some really bad people, as events start escalating beyond their control.
The set-up (ex-con trying to carve a new life lands in a bad situation) is a well established trope and some pieces of dialogue are a bit sluggish but the heart of this hard hitting (yet funny in places) drama/thriller shines through. This is a story built on loyalty but in presenting a socially realistic backdrop (gang culture, crime riddled estates, fear of local gangsters), Relentless can pack quite the punch so to speak.
For instance, as we delve into Ava’s character, her life becomes rather distressing and uncomfortably all too real but as Jake arrives on the scene, we soon see this is not just his story of vindication but Ava’s as well. Murphy does not demonise his subjects, he sympathises and shows how people can be a product of the turmoil they grew up with and in but even in the most extreme cases, there is always a chance to be more than our experiences and to come out the other side of trouble. It’s a quietly inspiring film and to say it shows a very brutal world, there are some humorous moments as well, grounded in moments of relatable character dialogue.
The film has practically all the fat trimmed and feels very sprightly at just over an hour in length, with memorable sequences that contain some with a real visual spark - a tense Sea Life centre scene for instance sees director of photography #JonathanMcLaughlin firing on all cylinders. While some realistic fight choreography by #PhilNorman hits the mark, even if some of the effects do occasionally jar a touch it’s all mostly well done, and assisting in this is #LxaLynch and #ChelseaCran’s strong make-up, which makes some of the film’s knuckle bruising scrapes have more impact visually. And a special mention for #MariaTheresaRodriguez’s music, a lot of which was performed by her, and which fits the overall feeling of the film well.
Murphy is fantastic as the flawed but big hearted Jake, while young Tiffany-Ellen Robinson as Ava shows how she could be a name to look out for in future, with a very emotive performance. These two actors hold the soul of the film in their hands and both have your investment, as do their characters, which in turn means that Relentless does too.
Relentless is a sometimes fierce, sometimes rather funny, and engaging British crime story, that packs a wallop, physically and emotionally.