Bouncy as a pit bull puppy, but ultimately more annoying than cute and too absurd to feel dangerous, Brit pic “18.104.22.168” reps an interesting but very flawed attempt to craft an American-style criss-crossing action-caper. Having built a local following with mostly macho urban tales “Kidulthood” and “Adulthood,” writer-helmer-thesp Noel Clarke tries (in collaboration with co-helmer Mark Davis) to get in touch with his feminine side via this tale of four women having a rough weekend. Results are decidedly mixed. Clarke’s rep and vigorous pre-publicity campaign should ensure a solid domestic opening, but ancillary is where “22.214.171.124” will really blast off.
Opening scene introduces the central quartet of London-living femme coeds around whom the four separate, incident-packed story strands are wound, then braided together at the end.
First story, centering around mopey Shannon (Ophelia Lovibond), is a snooze, and only picks up when she meets a badass femme (Michelle Ryan, from the recent “Bionic Woman” reboot) who’s looking for a stash of stolen blood diamonds now in Shannon’s unwitting possession.
Second strand revolves around willowy rich-girl Cassandra (Tamsin Egerton, from the recent “St. Trinian’s” movies), who starts her weekend by flying to Gotham, ostensibly for a musical audition, but really to lose her virginity to a guy she’s met only online. An oddly random but welcome assortment of cameos from writer-helmer Kevin Smith, rapper-turned-thesp Eve and legit legend Mandy Patinkin help make this the most engaging of the pic’s four segments.
Things go swiftly downhill with the third chapter, in which mouthy Kerrys (Shanika Warren-Markland), a recent lesbian convert, makes out with her g.f. (Susannah Fielding) in a love scene seemingly devised solely for the delectation of straight men. Turns out Kerrys’ half-brother Manuel (Gregg Chillin, a standout) is mixed up with the stolen diamonds, along with his associate Tee (Clarke himself).
Tee is the manager of a convenience store that employs Joanne (Emma Roberts), heroine of the previous chapter. With its overexposed lighting and employee chitchat, this set reps a heavy-handed tribute to Smith’s “Clerks” by way of Doug Liman’s multistranded “Go,” which Clarke himself has declared an influence here throughout.
That’s not a wise comparison, since mention of “Go” only makes “126.96.36.199’s” faults — contrived dialogue, often amateur-level perfs, tonally jarring stabs as sentimentality — glare more brightly. More problematic still, Clarke’s script has huge plausibility issues, starting with whether these four (admittedly cartoonishly drawn) young women would ever be friends. And there’s the question of whether pro diamond smugglers would ever use doofuses like Tee and his friends as middlemen. The canny eye for contempo street culture Clarke displayed in his scripts for “Kidulthood” and “Adulthood” has lost its focus here.
The lack of verisimilitude wouldn’t matter so much if the whole package were assembled with more pro polish. Although the mix of score (by composers Adam Lewis and Barnaby Robson) with urban-beat choices by music supervisor Ian Neil adds bounce throughout, and is nimbly integrated with consistently excellent editing by Mark Everson, elsewhere the pic looks a bit too low-budget to break out of the niche ghetto offshore.