Desperate Measures, 2011.
Directed by Steve Looker.
Starring Stephen Lord, Ricci Harnett, Maxton G. Beesley and Steven Hillman.
A drink and drug addict is kidnapped and held on a remote farmhouse where his two captors put him through a brutal regime to get him clean.
Based on a screenplay by producer Chris Green (who also has the Stephen Graham / Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje drama Best Laid Plans set for release later this year), Desperate Measures is a new independent feature from director Steve Looker, a Manchester-based filmmaker who has been building a fine reputation over the past couple of years with his short film work, including the Halloween homage Cold Blood (watch it here) and the thriller Sacrifice, which picked up the Limelight Best Drama Award back in 2009.
A gritty and engrossing slice of low-budget British cinema, Desperate Measures plays with audience expectations, taking a rather simple plot and incorporating a number of surprising twists and turns en route to its eventual – and unexpected – conclusion. Inspired by the old adage of 'desperate times call for desperate measures', the psychological thriller sees Ross (Stephen Lord) awaking from a heavy night of drink and drugs to find himself held against his will in a remote Yorkshire farmhouse. Subjected to a brutal, military-style rehabilitation programme by his mysterious captors, George (Max Beesley Sr.) and Jack (Ricci Harnett), Ross is given a simple choice - go home clean, or don't go home at all.
Central to the film's success are the performances of its three main actors, with the filmmakers having assembled a strong cast that includes familiar British faces Stephen Lord (Eastenders), Max Beesley Sr. (Looking for Eric) and Ricci Harnett (Rise of the Footsoldier). Harnett in particular stands out, delivering a confident and assured turn as the menacing former solider Jack, although all three are entirely convincing in their respective roles and do a fine job of keeping the viewer engaged, especially with such a limited number of characters. Similarly, Looker also makes great use of the secluded farmhouse location and its surrounding area with polished and impressive cinematography that really amplifies the hopelessness of Ross' situation.
For a low budget feature, Desperate Measures is a surprisingly accomplished piece, with a taut, well-crafted screenplay, believable dialogue and interesting characterisation, coupled with decent acting, strong direction and an atmospheric musical score. While I didn't find the final plot twist too convincing, it didn't detract from my enjoyment of the film as a whole and if you're a fan of hard-hitting indie thrillers then you could do much worse than checking out Desperate Measures when it arrives on DVD on Monday.
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