My Mum recommended this film to me because she thought I’d like it. The result… it’s OK as far as low budget British thrillers go. If there’s anything the British film industry can do well, it’s low budget thrillers. We’re more of a dark and gritty country than America and that tends to come across in our films.
The two examples I tend to use are the films ‘The Day After’ and ‘Threads’. Both films are about a Nuclear war but the ending of ‘The Day After’ (the US version) has somewhat of a hopeful ending whilst ‘Threads’ starts shit, only gets shittier and ends at its very shittiest. Bleak. We love it.
Hence, ‘Tower Block’.
The plot is pretty simple. One year after a teenager is beaten to death in a tower block, the remaining residents are hunted down one by one by a mysterious sniper. With their numbers decreasing every time someone stands in front of a window and no means of calling for help, they have to figure out how to who the gunman is and how to escape him.
In fact, the film opens with teenager, Jimmy (Ralph Laurila) being chased to the top floor of the tower block and resident Becky, (Sheridan Smith) comes out to help him but is beaten herself. The next scene shows her speaking to DC Devlin (Steven Cree) and not revealing any information about the assailants which is stupid because she didn’t know who the two were as they were wearing balaclavas. Granted, she didn’t say anything because she didn’t know anything but she didn’t need to not say anything whilst making it look like she was deliberately withholding information.
One major problem (and ‘Tower Block’ is not alone in this) is that there are simply far too many protagonists to characterise properly.
In this 90 minute film that is mostly localised to one floor of a tower block, there are 20 named characters, 12 of which appear for most of the film. There’s Becky and her neighbours; young couple, Amy (Loui Batley) and Jeff (Michael Legge), married couple Brian (James Weber Brown) and Carol (Julie Graham) with their son, Daniel (Harry McEntire), single mother, Jenny (Montserrat Lombard) and her two young children, local drug dealers, Gary (Nabil Elouahabi) and Mark (Kane Robinson), Ex-Soldier, Neville (Ralph Brown) and his wife, Violet (Jill Baker), relapsed alcoholic, Paul (Russell Tovey) and last but not least, petty criminal, Kurtis who’s played by Jack O’Connell and is my Mum’s favourite. Spoiler alert, he’s not mine.
Kurtis sticks around until the end and is the only character to have a visible arc. At the start, he’s one of the most unlikeable characters I have ever seen in a film and that statement is actually a testament to O’Connell’s acting skills because I have had the misfortune to encounter people with ‘Kurtis-like’ qualities. This reference would only make sense if one had seen the film and lived in one of the most deprived towns in England (like I do).
Kurtis runs a ‘protection-racket’ where in light of the unfortunate murder that occurred the year prior, Kurtis pressures the remaining residents into giving him money to ‘protect’ them but really, there’s no one to ‘protect’ them from, only himself. So basically, it’s ‘give me money or I’ll do horrible things to you’. BUT, Kurtis is all attitude and no follow-through. It’s infuriated to watch a military veteran being openly threatened by comparatively a child and once the shooting starts, Kurtis is just as freaked out as everyone. I kept wishing that he would stand in front of a window but he never did.
Once the shooting does start and a number of characters literally bite the bullet, the survivors correctly deduce that they are being hunted because of the murder. I also correctly deduced that the two killers were among them. I knew that because of their builds and I’m sure they were wearing similar if not identical clothes. They killed Jimmy for basically no reason and Kurtis gets on his high-horse because even though he threatens people for money among other crimes, he’s now the arbiter of right and wrong so stands them in front of a window so the sniper can kill them.
That doesn’t even come close to solving the problem so the residents come up with a number of ways of leaving the building and all of them fail. It gets to the point where Becky suggests setting fire to the building in the hopes that someone will notice the flames and the emergency services can rescue them before either the sniper or the fire kills them.
Altogether, the film is very British and realistically shows a rundown, deprived area even if a few of the residents are somewhat questionable. I don’t think Ralph Brown or Sheridan Smith’s characters would be the kind of people to live in a tower block. Also, it’s mentioned in the story that the top floor residents are the only people still left in the block since it’s due to be demolished and they have yet to be rehoused. There were a set of tower blocks that had its residents rehoused and then demolished. I didn’t get to see the demolition because I walk working but I remember walking past and seeing a crowd of people. A family member lived next to the tower blocks and recorded the whole thing. It was pretty cool. There’s a housing complex there now.
I don’t know what else to say. It’s one of those things that will resonate with someone who can understand those surroundings but it’s a decent mystery so I won’t spoil it. All in all. OK movie.
Follow me on Twitter – @rustysoapbox
Or on Instagram – tessawhitham1994