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Sustain (2019) - Review

Star Rating: ⭑⭑⭑

Directed by: #DaveHastings

A modern revenge tale set in the West Midlands

Kieran Flank (Brett Dewsbury) is a mechanic/family man based in the West Midlands. One night early into the new year, his younger, half-brother is murdered in a racially motivated attack and the film proceeds to document Flank’s struggle for justice and his turn to vigilantism as means to get his closure.

Now there’s been a modern resurgence in this kind of ’genre‘ film if you will with the popularity of John Wick and The Equalizer the core narrative structure is practically as old as film itself and by proxy of that, Sustain doesn’t really add much to the conversation. In fairness I think the aspect of race and a hate crime makes the film distinctly modern and if it were handled with a different focus, could’ve had some cutting and sadly extremely contemporary commentary on the state of race relations in modern Britain but chose to be a little toothless dare I say. Whilst on that note though, it was good to see this type of extended, multi-racial family and as far as I’m concerned was a positive step for representations, though I suppose to some degree it is used as a bit of a crutch in the sense that it is the sole purpose of the character and his relationship with his younger brother doesn’t get much of a light shone on it, coming off as shallow. On the flip side of that the villains are also immensely one dimensional which doesn’t provide much of a believable conflict. Sustain makes no strides to add anything new or novel to this genre but it isn’t necessarily a bad thing, whilst I saw the ending of the plot coming from a mile off and some of the major story beats were a bit predictable, the film was still largely enjoyable during that two hour run time and kept me immersed throughout so credit where it’s due to some degree.

Positives, there are a fair few to be drawn upon. Though it wasn’t ground breaking to any degree and didn’t reinvent the wheel, Sustain is a well made and serviceable, modern plot that in many ways, manages to almost perfectly depict some of the areas in more working class regions of the country in a manner that Shane Meadows did in his early filmography. Now it might come off as idle work on my behalf and I’m more than wary of that but in fairness, there were more than a few superficial similarities between this and Dead Man’s Shoes in as far as plot elements and the almost identical narrative catalysts. Performance was a mixed bag in all honesty, but the lead performance from Brett Dewsbury, the lead role and man behind the script was a standout amongst his peers. Cinematography was another notable element of film form, for this example it is hard to quantify what exactly makes it standout but it was ‘professional’ if I had to put it in some sense. It captured characters well and added to the experience as a whole.

In all though, I felt that the film was severely impacted by some of its flaws and they were, sadly, massively detrimental. The sound editing was extremely poor and I’m afraid was absolutely jarring. Having watched this with headphones in it was perhaps enchanted but nevertheless was amateurish and a let down. Having mentioned Dewsbury, the supporting cast was borderline abysmal in my opinion. Having seen a few of these faces in some capacity before, they failed to impress here and it struck me in some ways that they weren’t fully committed to what they were being asked to do.

That said however, I can’t and won’t flaw the films ambition. With some of the cast doing a fine job and largely consistent, professional standard of form elements. It aimed high but ultimately fell short. In all, Sustain has some attractive qualities but they were buried under some poor form elements and a myriad of bad performances. Entertaining but not one I’ll remember fondly I’m afraid.

Film review by: Thomas Jay


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