25 April, 2009

Word of Mouth: "Shifty"

"Riz Ahmed (Britz, Dead Set) takes the title role of Shifty, a thriller charting an action packed 24 hours in the life of a young crack cocaine dealer on the outskirts of London. The sudden return home of his best friend sets in motion a chain of events that see Shiftys life quickly spiral out of control. Stalked by a customer desperate to score at all costs, and with his family about to turn their back on him for good, Shifty must out-run and out-smart a rival drug dealer intent on setting him up. As his long time friend Chris, played by Daniel Mays (The Bank Job, Plus One), confronts the dark past he left behind him, Shifty is forced to face up to the violent future he's heading fast towards."

I only saw this to support low budget British film but Shifty is an actual properly written movie that's brilliantly directed by a film-maker that cares about his audience and doesn't take the piss. It shouldn't be this rare.

What little I knew about the film before seeing it was that Eran Creevy was a first-time writer-director and so I was surprised at the confidence and skill in his shot choices. It turns out that the hyphenate is a hot commercials and music video director, helmed two of my all-time favourites for Utah Saints (nice concept and execution) and for Alex Gaudino (erm...great art design and editing! ahem).

I've long said that once you get the script right in low and micro-budget then everything else will follow including attracting quality actors and crew willing to work for minimum wage and more chance of getting a distribution deal at the end of it. The 100,000 budget would have been a 500,000-750,000 budget under normal circumstances, which still doesn't seem that much, to be honest.

Microwave, Film London's mico-budget scheme, nurtured Creevy through script development and provided him with a script editor. Being optimistic, this movie may change the anti- script /script-development culture amongst low-budget film-makers in the UK.

Shifty's setting is illegal drugs and crime and yet avoids the clichés usually associated with the genre and feels true. This is because the characters are developed and detailed. Rather then explaining everything immediately the audience is allowed to piece things together themselves. Why Chris left in the first place is a mystery and it comes out in conflict. Shifty doesn't explain what he's doing at his brother's but it comes out in conflict.

The other thing I noticed was the use of sub-plots as we follow Chris and Shifty but also Trevor, the stalking customer, and his home life which added depth without distracting. Creegy economically establishes motivation with both Trevor and his wife. She has a couple of wordless scenes in the bathroom which reveal a lot. In terms of character and story.

So many films of the genre are let down by the contrivances used to conclude the story but that isn't the case with Shifty, which keeps it real. Although I have minor issues with a couple of things in the story, there is nothing like the giant plot holes in the otherwise excellent London to Brighton, for instance.

Because the British audience is now very wary of low-budget British film even brilliant ones could end up being one-week wonders at the box office just like the bad ones but hopefully positive word of mouth will kick in to give it at least two weeks.

As I was coming out of the movie theatre this bloke was immediately on the phone to his mates, telling them to see it.
To save my phone bill, I'm doing this blog instead:

Shifty is highly recommended. See it this weekend if you can and if you have a Cineworld Unlimited card see it more than once as it could be our film needing the support one day.

Official site

Eran Creevy interview (The Scotsman)
Eran Creevy interview (Film Detail)
Eran Creevy interview (Movies.ie)

1 comment:

Tom Murphy said...

I was also impressed by the script - particularly how the drama grew out of the characters and their environment rather than being a load of bolted-on filmic cliches. It's shot in a totally naturalistic way, but the tension builds up very effectively.

I've got a few notes from a Q&A with Eran Creevy at the BFI here. Unfortunately, he didn't talk much about the development of the script. However, Daniel Mays did say that he was desperate to do it once he'd read the script; he could relate totally to Chris and was drawn to the theme of an ordinary person getting drawn into an extraordinary situation.