Starting out like a "Defence of the Realm" conspiracy thriller, but soon morphing into a more character-driven piece, "Complicity" is an above-average mystery-drama that far more deserves play than many of the substandard Britpics dumped onto screens during the past few months. Given a token theatrical release in Scotland earlier this year, item recently surfaced on rental in the rest of Blighty.

Starting out like a “Defence of the Realm” conspiracy thriller, but soon morphing into a more character-driven piece, “Complicity” is an above-average mystery-drama that far more deserves play than many of the substandard Britpics dumped onto screens during the past few months. Given a token theatrical release in Scotland earlier this year, item recently surfaced on rental in the rest of Blighty.

Rising thesp Jonny Lee Miller gives one of his best perfs to date as Cameron Colley, a maverick crime journalist on a Scottish rag who enjoys occasional kinky sex with Yvonne (Keeley Hawes), wife of businessman friend William (Jason Hetherington), and desperately needs a good story to kickstart his faltering career. Cameron reckons his big break could come from a series of phone tips from Mr. Archer, who claims to be a security services mole.

The names Archer has been feeding him all suffered weird deaths during the past few months and appear to be connected with an old British-arms-to-Iraq scandal. When a fourth guy, who’s just sold off his traditional distillery to the Japanese, dies, Cameron gets confused.

Then the police, led by Inspector McDunn (Brian Cox), tell him the murders seem to follow a campaign of personal retribution jokingly suggested by Cameron in an article he wrote a year ago: death to establishment figures who bend the rules for their own gain and disregard ordinary people’s well-being.

Cameron holes up in the countryside with another longtime friend, Andy (Paul Higgins), who’s just returned home after a disastrous business outing funded by William. The calls from Archer — and more murders — keep coming, and Cameron slowly realizes he could be being set up, possibly by one of his friends.

Without overdoing the charm, Miller is good as the freewheeling hack who’s never taken life too seriously until now. Flashbacks limn his circle of friends and their history, and the script even leaves open the possibility that Cameron could be the perp. Weakness of the movie is that when the truth is revealed, the killer’s motive is hardly believable, given the scope and ambition of the murders. But until the final reels the film is a well-played, solidly directed, mid-range drama.

Disquietingly, for a non-U.S. production, the script has been prominently doctored with anti-drug/smoking warnings. Technical credits are fine, with David Odd’s lensing making the most of the Scottish and Highlands locations, and Cox, Hawes and Higgins playing easily alongside Miller. Veteran Scottish actor Bill Paterson has a nicely etched scene as Cameron’s boss.

Complicity

U.K.

Production

An Entertainment Film Distributors release of a J&M Entertainment/Entertainment Film Distributors/Carlton Films presentation of a Talisman Films production. (International sales: J&M, London.) Produced by Richard Jackson, Neil Dunn. Executive producers, Julia Palau, Michael Ryan. Co-producers, Andrew Warren, Peter McAleese. Directed by Gavin Millar. Screenplay, Bryan Elsley, based on the novel by Iain Banks.

Crew

Camera (Deluxe color prints), David Odd; editor, Angus Newton; music, Colin Towns; production designer, Jamie Leonard; supervising art director, Paul Kirby; costumes, Kate Carin; sound (Dolby Digital), Colin Nicolson, Craig Irving; assistant director, Tommy Gormley; casting, Susie Bruffin. Reviewed on videocassette, London, July 28, 2000. Running time: 100 MIN.

With

Jonny Lee Miller, Brian Cox, Keeley Hawes, Paul Higgins, Jason Hetherington, Bill Paterson, Samuel West, Rachael Stirling.

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