A timely shout-out to Blighty’s youth (given the recent escalation in teen crime) to resist the temptations of violence and revenge, urban drama “Adulthood” reps an impressive, energetic sequel to 2002’s moderate hit “Kidulthood.” While the story is shamelessly melodramatic and might strike older, more cynical viewers as basically an extended episode of Brit teen soap “Hollyoaks,” but with more swearing, guns, and ethnic diversity, the under-18 crowd has made this a sanctified indie hit domestically. Pic has reaped a very grown-up $4.7 million since its June 20 bow and looks set to go gangbusters in ancillary.
A fast, pre-credits montage of scenes from “Kidulthood” brings auds up to speed: Six years ago, teenager Sam (writer-helmer Noel Clarke) killed his schoolmate Trife (Aml Ameen) at a party.
Action proper starts with Sam being released from jail; desaturated flashbacks throughout reveal he had a rough time of it inside. Back on the mean streets of West London (pic makes good use of locations in and around Notting Hill and Ladbroke Grove), Sam soon learns that someone means to do either him or his family serious harm in revenge. He decides to look up his old friends and foes to find out who, and try to persuade them to let bygones be bygones.
Many of the actors from “Kidulthood” reprise their roles here as Sam begins his quest, from his ex-g.f. Claire (Madeleine Fairley), who’s now moll to a new gangster (Danny Dyer, underused), to Alisa (Red Madrell), who gave birth to Trife’s child after he died. Tipped off about Sam’s whereabouts by new character Lexi (Scarlett Alice Johnson, impressive), Sam’s old nemesis Jay (Adam Deacon) tries to persuade his one-time mate Moony (Femi Oyeniran), now a law student, to help whack Sam and avenge Trife.
Clarke skillfully juggles many other characters and minor subplots in the pic’s packed one-day-and-night timeframe, although Sam’s story is the main thread here (whereas “Kidulthood” was more of a criss-crosser). “Adulthood’s” more tightly focused screenplay reps an improvement, although it lacks the breadth of characters that made “Kidulthood” so interesting.
And where the earlier pic took sociologically astute notice of how middle-class, even affluent white kids and poorer black and Asian kids all mixed together in its West London setting, the emphasis here is almost exclusively on those from the projects.
Take away the characters’ distinctive (and practically in need of subtitling) argot (a mix of Cockney, Afro-Caribbean, and hip-hop slang), and the pic could be set anywhere, like Liverpool’s Moss Side or Glasgow’s East End — or even Detroit or South Central Los Angeles.
Nevertheless, its domestic B.O. success and staggering screen averages (upwards of $15,000) must be partly ascribed to the fact that it serves a local teen aud desperate for gritty depictions of their own lives rather than more imports from Hollywood. It also doesn’t hurt that the soundtrack features a slew of hot Brit hip-hop and “grime” acts, including tracks by Plan B (aka Ben Drew) and Deacon, both of whom have roles in the pic, as well as Bashy and Dizzee Rascal.
Thesping is a bit rough in places, but of a piece with the film’s shouty, in-your-face style, though Clarke himself gives a powerful performance. He also proves to be no slouch at helming as he takes over the reins from “Kidulthood’s” Menhaj Huda, and keeps up that pic’s frenetic split-screen and popvid rhythms.
Grainy but snappy lensing by Brian Tufano (“Billy Elliot,” “Trainspotting”) adds pro polish to an overall competent tech package.