As one of the Cockney crims in Nick Love's Spanish-set gangster yarn might put it, "The Business" is the bollocks. Reinvigorating a genre well past its sell-by date with a combo of dry wit, widescreen panache and a cast that handles the expletive-strewn dialogue like rough poetry, pic looks set to hook younger auds.
As one of the Cockney crims in Nick Love’s Spanish-set gangster yarn might put it, “The Business” is the bollocks. Reinvigorating a genre well past its sell-by date with a combo of dry wit, widescreen panache and a cast that handles the expletive-strewn dialogue like rough poetry, pic looks set to hook younger auds at U.K. wickets on Sept. 2 release, with warm business elsewhere in Europe. Stateside, where the slangy dialogue and cultural specificity will limit broad acceptance, it will be more of a specialty item, though the film’s sheer style and verve could build a cult following.
On the surface, Love’s third feature is a rollercoaster ride through — and a sardonic valentine to — the Thatcherite ’80s, an era of conspicuous consumption in British society, paralleled here by a bunch of expat villains on Spain’s southern coast. (The so-called “Costa del Crime” flourished as a criminal haven for Brits, due to a temporary absence of any extradition law between the two countries.)
At a deeper level, and following on from his previous feature, soccer-hooliganism drama “The Football Factory,” film is another look by the young writer-director at English tribal rituals — here in a working-class, criminal setting. Just as the young wannabe in “Factory” longed for the fast-lane of group bravaderie and a good post-game punch-up, so Frankie (Danny Dyer) hooks up with the elite of the Costa del Sol’s English drug barons and their amoral lifestyle.
Like the voiceover narrator of “Factory,” Frankie stakes out his ground in the opening scenes. “Better to be someone for a day than no one for a lifetime,” he says, before clubbing his abusive father to death in a dour southeast London housing project and then skedaddling to Malaga as bagman for a drug deal.
Taken on as a driver by charismatic bar owner Charlie (Tamer Hassan, in pic’s standout performance), Frankie soon idolizes his perma-tanned boss and flashy world. However, when he’s introed to Charlie’s business partner, the seriously psychotic Sammy (Geoff Bell), and Sammy’s hot-to-trot but off-limits g.f., Carly (Georgina Chapman), he starts to think he may be out of his depth. This is the same territory and era as the first half of “Sexy Beast,” and Love also milks the sun-blasted setting and extravagant characters and clothes for all they’re worth. Damian Bromley’s strikingly composed widescreen lensing profits from its DV origins with almost electric colors, and costume design by Andrew Cox is right on the money, from leisure wear to shades.
However, where “Sexy Beast” gradually listed under the weight of its grandstanding stars, “The Business” stays light on its feet with a much lesser-known ensemble cast.
Under Charlie’s tutelage, Frankie helps smuggle marijuana across the straits from Morocco and even risks an occasional hot-tub session with Carly. But when Sammy starts to get jealous, Charlie splits with his longtime partner and, despite warnings from the local mayor (Arturo Venegas) to stick with soft drugs, ventures with Frankie into the way more lucrative cocaine biz. The stage is set for multiple betrayals and falls from grace.
Pic’s biggest surprise is that it maintains its momentum, with hardly a blip, across 96 minutes. The almost wall-to-wall music, with a heavy component of ’80s rock/disco classics, certainly helps; but it’s the characters, first and foremost, who drive and sustain the movie, effortlessly cruising on Love’s dialogue as if to the manner born.
Hassan, one of the best things in “Football Factory,” is aces here as the brash but ruthless Charlie — think Antonio Banderas with a Cockney accent — and Bell also very good as the disturbed Sammy. Pair’s curious friendship is summed up in one of the pic’s scariest and most surreal scenes (testing bulletproof jackets in a stone quarry) that also epitomizes the hair-trigger blend of drama and comedy.
Dyer, who first came to attention as Moff in “Human Traffic” (1999), makes Frankie a much more shaded character than his confident voiceover suggests, and carries the viewer along in a subtly slow-burning performance. As the manipulative goodtime girl, Chapman looks and acts on the money.