Some Dogs Bite

Sturdily made, but a smidge too didactically depressing for its own good.

With:
With: Thomas Brodie Sangster, Aaron Taylor, Michelle Asante, Mandeep Dhillon, Aymen Hamdouchi, Cory Smith, Kian Smith, Lewis Ryan Dickinson.

Sturdily made, but a smidge too didactically depressing for its own good, British made-for-TV drama “Some Dogs Bite” tracks the journey of three half-brothers — two teenagers, one infant — on the run from Blighty to Scotland. Third feature for Marc Munden (“The Mark of Cain,” “Miranda”) plays like an upmarket but downbeat after-school special, in the tradition of other local social realists like Ken Loach and Andrea Arnold but with glossier lensing, courtesy of Wojciech Szepel. “Dogs” has begun its fest run but could bite off a few more before facing its ancillary destiny given it was made-for-TV.

When the mother of three boys (all from different fathers) dies, her middle son, pubescent Casey (up-and-coming young thesp Thomas Brodie Sangster), kidnaps his younger brother, 10-month-old Severino (played by Cory Smith, Kian Smith and Lewis Ryan Dickinson), from care. Casey then compels his older sib, H (Aaron Taylor), to help them run away to Scotland to find Casey’s long-gone dad. Budding criminal H would rather not go but has little choice, as Casey has stolen some money from him and sent it ahead to a post office box in Inverness.

En route, they have various scrapes and hook up with two similarly adrift, emotionally neglected girls, mouthy Venetia (Michelle Asante, especially good) and more stable Seema (Mandeep Dhillon), and romantic feelings blossom between H and Venetia. The kids find shelter in an abandoned rural cottage H heard about from soldier Lenny (Aymen Hamdouchi), who’s terribly excited about becoming a dad for the first time, therefore spelling disaster for him.

Scribe Lin Coghlan spent time as a writer in residence in prisons, working with young people with literacy and behavioral problems, and her script does a good job of replicating the way teens today talk, though the narrative arc is a bit too tidy and tooled. Likewise, helmer Munden gets some things very right and neglects others; pic has distinctive visual flair, favoring unexpectedly off-balance compositions and back-of-the-head shots, but the thesping from the young cast (with the exceptions of Sangster and Asante) is often too on-the-nose.

By using mostly interiors and anonymous locations, pic only just avoids looking as if it were shot in one region, despite the cross-country storyline. Tech credits are otherwise serviceable.

Some Dogs Bite

U.K.

Production: A Kindle Entertainment production for BBC Learning. (International sales: Kindle Entertainment, London.) Produced by Sara Felden. Executive producers, Sarah Miller, Kristin Mason, Anne Brogan, Melanie Stokes. Directed by Marc Munden. Screenplay, Lin Coghlan.

Crew: Camera (color), Wojciech Szepel; editor, David Charap; music, Ben Bartlett; production designer, Helen Scott; art director, Gavin Lewis; costume designer, Alexandra Caulfield sound (Dolby Digital), David Sansom; visual effects, John Kerron; stunt coordinator, Gareth Milne; line producer, Angie Daniell; assistant director, Dan Winch; casting, Amanda Tabak, Beverley Keogh. Reviewed on DVD, Hoveton, U.K., Oct. 3, 2010. Running time: 89 MIN.

With: With: Thomas Brodie Sangster, Aaron Taylor, Michelle Asante, Mandeep Dhillon, Aymen Hamdouchi, Cory Smith, Kian Smith, Lewis Ryan Dickinson.

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