The Taking, 2014.
Directed by Dominic Brunt.
Starring Victoria Smurfit, Joanna Mitchell and Jonathan Slinger.
Market stall owners and best friends, Bex (Victoria Smurfit) and Dawn (Joanne Mitchell) want to leave their stall behind and open a cafe in town, but the bank won’t give them the money. In comes Jeremy (Jonathan Slinger) a charming financier with £10,000 in cash, offering to start them up. They refuse, but he still wants his money back…
Finished in its final cut on Monday, Dominic Brunt’s second feature, The Taking, was given its world premiere, opening up the 28th Leeds International Film Festival on Wednesday 5th November 2014. A brutal thriller, it’s one of the most intense films you’ll see all year, calling to mind the likes of Switchblade Romance, Kill List and even The Hitcher throughout its lean 82 minutes.
But it’s not like those influences are plain to see at first, with the first ten minutes or so playing out like a BBC comedy drama about single women trying to make it in the world.
Brunt’s vision with The Taking was to make a thriller with strong female characters, and he’s nailed it with Bex and Dawn. Played by his wife Joanna Mitchell and Victoria Smurfit, they’ve got great chemistry, no surprise as they’re best friends in real life. At times, it’s no stretch to assume that they improvised their dialogue, they’re so comfortable with each other, but it just shows how tight Paul Roundell’s script really is.
From the very first frame, there’s a sense of dread, that their little, seemingly happy life could be shattered by anything at anytime. Whether it’s the bank, who refuse them a business loan for their planned organic cafe, or the arrival of Jeremy, a mild mannered financier, who befriends Bex and Dawn, offering to start up their business as a favour, with £10,000 cash he pulls out of his deep pockets. They refuse, but then Jeremy brings up the notion of ‘other costs and fees’.
Jeremy, played by stage actor Jonathan Slinger, is an imposing presence. At first, he’s just a guy, balding, struggling to pay the bills, living an ordinary family life. But when someone’s in debt to him, he’s a monster, seemingly intimidating Bex and Dawn for the thrill of it, increasing their debt with every torment. At times, these scenes can be a bit jarring, his transformation is impressive, but it could have been just a tad more subtle. Still, Jeremy isn’t a character you’re going to forget about anytime soon, in fact, The Taking will make you shudder at the sound of his name.
The Taking more in line with Kill List and the domestic drama of Mike Leigh than Scream or Halloween, going for absolute dread, rather than short sharp shocks. And the fact that the film was made around Yorkshire make some of the scenes all too real at times – it’s never a bad thing, though, unless you’re averse to a bit of the old ultra-violence every now and again.
A strong second feature from Dominic Brunt, The Taking should go from strength to strength, considering its strong debut at Leeds International Film Festival this year. A foreboding thriller obviously influenced by the best in the genre, it’s an assault on the senses that no movie fan should be without.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★