The Heavy (2010)

(On DVD, January 2012) This surprisingly acceptable British thriller comes across the pond in humble DVD format, setting up low expectations that are eventually surpassed by the content of the film.  Initially presented as the story of a criminal operative, The Heavy eventually morphs into a far more engaging political/family thriller.  A timeline-hopping structure keeps things mysterious until it’s no longer time for them to be, but good cinematography, fine performances, an intriguing soundtrack by Paul Oakenfold, good direction by writer/director Marcus Warren and unusual characters do the rest.  The film gets better as it goes on and while it doesn’t end happily, it finishes on a satisfying note.  (Screenwriters with a desire to kill off most of their lead characters may want to study this film and understand why some downbeat endings work better than others.)  There are, to be sure, a number of bad flaws in the mix: Nearly every scene involving the protagonist’s parents are written so on-the-nose as to be wince-worthy.  Gary Stretch is OK as the lead, but a few other performances aren’t as polished and Vinnie Jones’ character seems overly sadistic as a corrupt cop.  The Heavy, to be entirely fair, doesn’t take place in our reality as much as one in which criminals and influent politicians can take out convoluted contracts on each other… so don’t expect realism as much as a satisfying shuffling of known archetypes.  Still, The Heavy is absorbing-enough as it plays, and the strong ending makes it look quite a bit better than it may be in its entirety.  The DVD contains three short making-of featurettes, rounding up the film without any extra flashes of brilliance.

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