a film by Rikki Beadle-Blair.
2012 | 110 mins | UK.
principal players: Joel Dommett / JJ, Ludvig Bonin / Venom, Nathan Clough / KKK, Jennifer Daley / Karisma, Arnie Hewitt / Sam, Marcus Kai / Orlando, Michael Lindall / Daniel, Duncan MacInnes / Kevan, Jason Steed / Eggy, Toby Wharton / White Fang and with Gary Beadle and the Righteous Crew.
Adapted Synopsis: "JJ; an aspiring MC has just arrived on London's exciting underground urban music scene. He's got the skills, he's got the rhymes and he's got the drive. But JJ isn't going to find it easy in this world; not only is he a white boy, but he's also gay. Deciding to out himself on-stage at the Urban Slam Finals, he lovingly, if somewhat naively, takes his boyfriend Orlando along with him, only to be confronted by the infamous rap crew, the Ilford Illmanics, resulting in a barbaric act of bigoted violence that will change all of their lives - forever."
You have to admire writer and director Rikki Beadle-Blair of KickOff fame, given he is a man forever on a mission and no more poignantly so than here, as he shines the cinematic spotlight on the issue of hate lyrics.
For this is a film that finds RBB with a lot to say; perhaps too much for a single feature? Raising a series of points left, right and centre, the dominant theme remains the fact that free speech is not a license to voice words of prejudice. That such lyrics are to be found here are whilst repulsive, nevertheless integral to showing the consequences of such, namely a bloody beating that leaves JJ's lover Orlando brain damaged. Frankly, the scene in question and even when blurred by a surreal "out of body" experience, still makes for uncomfortable viewing, with the CCTV footage being particularly vicious. Yet it is a stage that had to be set, in order for the film to explore its core subject; that of the repercussions of such a vile act on the victim, his friends and indeed on the very perpetrators, even if the moral turnaround of the Ilford Illmanics will for many I dare say, stretch credulity to breaking point. At too, do one too many coincidences, not least of which is the group's defending solicitor being a closeted gay man that one of their crew had previously attacked.
JJ and his boy, his lover Orlando in Bashment.
Fortunately, the performances and here cue a cast of Team Angelica regulars are universally strong, with Skins star Joel Dommett on fine form as JJ; that of a man caught between his love of rap music and the ugly reality of hate lyrics and here Marcus Kai as Orlando delivers a moving performance of a man who but for the odd moment or two, is a fragment of his former self. The standout turn however lies with Nathan Clough, who as the ring leader of the piece excels in a role that truly gets under your skin, one that finds RBB play a surprise card with his character come the upbeat and certainly creative closing scene, playing alongside Jennifer Daley who shines as the sole female in the principal cast. Also of note are the film's polar opposites, with Toby Wharton every inch the white, violent and prejudiced negative off Arnie Hewitt's positive portrayal of Orlando's carer; that of a black man, openly gay.
Voicing words of prejudice in Bashment.
True, the language heard at times will undoubtedly prove offensive to many, whilst others may well be found longing for more moments of tenderness amid all of the biting commentary to be had; be it on homophobia, racism and class, if not the reality of gang style prison life, shown with both graphic and expletive realism. That said and for all of its pros and cons, this still crosses the celluloid finishing post as Rikki Beadle-Blair's best work to date, given both the film and the stage play upon which it is based are but thought-provoking vehicles to raise awareness of homophobic lyrics and the apparent fear that black culture has with homosexuality. Yet this is more than just a powerful exploration of the light and dark tones of sexual acceptance, as this is equally a sermon on atonement. Above all, Rikki Beadle-Blair has gone out of his way to denounce hate lyrics for what they are, namely words that have no place in music or society. And for that I applaud him, given the "rhymes - not crimes" message cannot be said loud enough.
Gay Visibility - overt.
Nudity - from the waist up.
Overall - file under ... 4 stars.