A gentle giant with learning difficulties and his exploitative best friend negotiate challenges in "Best Laid Plans."

A gentle giant with learning difficulties and his exploitative best friend negotiate challenges in “Best Laid Plans,” a contempo, low-budget Britpic that pays an acknowledged debt to “Of Mice and Men.” This uneasy mix of romance, buddy movie, gangster thriller and cage-fighting drama will likely prove a tough sell to auds, although the violent elements should help land a soft punch in ancillary.

Minor con Danny (Stephen Graham), who’s deep in debt to kingpin Curtis (David O’Hara), is about to have his cheek slashed as punishment when bear-like Joseph (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) lumbers to his rescue. Soon the genial, childlike savior is bullied into a grisly payment plan, participating in underground bare-knuckle bouts run by Curtis. The pair’s bond comes under threat when Joseph falls for Isabel (Maxine Peake), who’s also mentally challenged. Meanwhile, hard-drinking, cocaine-snorting Danny, whose moral turpitude extends to smoking indoors, pursues romance with kind-hearted hooker/artist Lisa (Emma Stansfield). Despite solid perfs, pic is unlikely to enhance the rep of TV helmer Blair in his third outing as feature director, following the little-seen “Mystics” and “Tabloid.” Stylish exterior lensing offers welcome flashes of relief from flat interiors.

Best Laid Plans

U.K.

Production

A Vertigo Films release of a Moli Films presentation, in association with EM Media, AV Pictures, Scarce Resources, Editz, the Fyzz Facility, of a Moli Up North, Made Up North production. (International sales: AV Pictures, London.) Produced by Michael Knowles, Stacey Murray, Brad Moore. Executive producers, Mark Foligno, Richard Turner, Lee Brazier, Chris Hainsworth, Angad Paul, Chris Wright, Chris Green. Directed by David Blair. Screenplay, Chris Green.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen, HD) Ali Asad, Daf Hobson; editor, Pia Di Ciaula; music, Rob Lane; production designer, Kristian Milstead; art director, Blair Barnette; costume designer, Rebecca McManus. Reviewed at Soho Screening Rooms, London, Jan. 27, 2012. Running time: 108 MIN.

With

Stephen Graham, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Maxine Peake, Emma Stansfield, David O'Hara, Peter Wight, Sarah Parks, Lee Ingleby.

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