City Rats, 2009.
Directed by Steve M. Kelly.
Starring Danny Dyer, Tamer Hassan, Ray Panthaki and Susan Lynch.
A low-budget British drama focussing on eight interconnected characters who struggle to deal with their personal demons throughout the course of a single day.
Looking at the DVD cover for City Rats it would be easy to overlook this as little more than another entry in the long line of tired, low-budget British gangster movies, however I must admit to being pleasantly surprised by what the film has to offer. The feature debut of director Steve M. Kelly and screenwriter Simon Fantauzzo, City Rats is a dark and gritty tale with four storylines that run concurrently and explore a number of depressing themes including suicide, murder, prostitution, homosexuality, loneliness and loss.
Danny Dyer stars as Pete, a drunken ex-con who is pursued by Carol (Natasha Williams), a mother who believes that Pete may have information on the whereabouts of her missing son. Tamer Hassan (Dyer’s co-star in The Football Factory and The Business) and MyAnna Buring (Lesbian Vampire Killers) play two suicidal strangers who, after a chance meeting, decide to spend one final day together to try and tie up any loose ends in their lives, while artist Dean (Ray Panthaki) seeks inspiration from his neighbour Gina (Susan Lynch), a disabled prostitute who runs her business from the flat upstairs. Finally, Olly (Kenny Doughty) scours the seedy underbelly of Soho, hoping to provide a sexual experience for his deaf-mute autistic brother Chris (James Lance), while searching for answers to his own confused sexuality.
The main focus of the film seems to be on Pete and Carol, with Danny Dyer far removed from his usual Cockney wide-boy routine and excellent in his role as an alcoholic struggling to deal with the consequences of his past crimes. The storyline between Dean and Gina manages to inject some much needed humour into the bleakness, while strong performances from the cast ensure that the viewer is drawn into each strand of the storyline. However, it does appear that the filmmakers have perhaps tried to cram too much into one single film, and some aspects – such as the story between the two brothers – do seem a little underdeveloped at times.
Described as a ‘London-style Pulp Fiction’, City Rats rather unsurprisingly fails to live up to such lofty heights of Tarantino’s classic. However, promising first-time director Steve M. Kelly manages to make the most of his low budget and the film benefits greatly from impressive cinematography, with a slick and polished visual style that really brings the city itself to life. It will be interesting to see what Kelly could accomplish given a larger budget and - despite its flaws - City Rats is an ambitious effort that certainly provides a refreshing change from the typical British gangster movie of recent years.