We’re in familiar cinematic territory here with gangs violently clashing over women, money and perhaps most predominately of all status. The fact that we are exploring familiar ground isn’t inherently a problem, the gangster sub-genre allows for plenty of interesting and exciting films even when they are at their least genre-defying and inventive. And to a certain extent Anti-Social succeeds in this respect; it’s often entertaining with tense scenes and danger lurking around each corner, and even though it sometimes feels a little overworked, the London slang generates a compelling atmosphere. Unfortunately though a fair amount of the film could have been more intense, more weighty as scenes are often lacking compelling dialogue, intelligent scripting and exciting direction. All the right ingredients for a great gangster film are here but they haven’t been allowed to reach their potential.
Our main character here is Dee (Gregg Sulkin) who is an up-and-coming street artist whose art is beginning to be noticed by heavyweight industry figures. He lives for his art, achieving his life of evading the police and spraying paint on walls by living off his elder brother’s criminal earnings. Dee trusts his brother (Josh Myers) implicitly but as his plans grow bigger and his criminal acts become more audacious and dangerous, Dee has to wonder whether his association with violent crime might have negative and far reaching consequences. Anti-Social does a decent job of spending time with both Dee and his brother so that we get the excitement of the violent London underworld and the more empathetic story of a person caught between worlds and loyalties.
The biggest problem with Anti-Social is that we don’t find ourselves being particularly drawn to its characters. There are some numerous scenes here which hold the potential to thrill but which instead, with one memorable exception, don’t really hit home fully. This is partially because some of the supporting cast could have delivered better performances, it’s also because of the uninspired direction but it’s primarily because the script and its characters needed to have been considerably developed. You can’t get invested in a film when the characters aren’t real enough. I remember once reading something a writer at Pixar said about how you should merge your characters together in order to generate richness. Anti-Social should have done that because there are lots of different characters and, although by merging them they would have lost some, those which were left would have been infinitely more layered and interesting.
Despite my complaints this is an entertaining movie. It has some fun, delivers some thrills and gets you from A to Z without complication. It could have done with some considerable fine tuning but if you’re seeking a fun Friday night movie then you could do a lot worse than Anti-Social. I have a soft spot for London Gangster films and I for one would be really interested to see what director Reg Traviss could do if he were to return to the sub-genre in the future.
Thanks for reading! Anti-Social reaches the UK today, will you be checking it out?