Monday, 25 April 2011

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28 year old Yorkshireman Toby Kebbell has formed the type of trans Atlantic film career that many Brit actors take years to develop, zig-zagging between Hollywood costume epics (Prince of Persia, Alexander) and straight forward home grown Indies (Dead Mans Shoes, Wilderness) before finally earning the exposure he deserved on the poster for Guy Ritchie’s RocknRolla, in which he was arguably the best thing about. Here he lands a lead role that demands the right kind of attention, but unfortunately this confused, congested espionage thriller won’t be what grants him household name status just yet.

A bitterly contrived attempt at bridging the urban actioner with the kind of dreary, post Afghanistan conspiracy politics you can find for free nightly on ITV, The Veteran stumbles and stacks over its grimly familiar plotting and totally unconvincing action scenes. Kebbell is Miller, a squaddie returning to the South London council estate of his youth (or that’s what we assume) where a series of surveillance jobs he carries out on a network of Middle Eastern terror suspects for questionable government suit Gerry (Cox) seems to lead back to the local heroin trade that’s eroding his estate, one youth at a time.

Director Hope obviously looks to Taxi Driver, The French Connection, and The Bourne films for influence and his affection for these films shines, but The Veteran is full of the same kind of Hollywood induced syntheticness that plagued the similar Harry Brown. Guns fights explode in broad daylight and no one’s ever about, let alone interested in calling the police. Bullets don’t spill blood, instead they cause half arsed drama students to collapse to the floor like narcoleptic hoodies. The kind of revelations unfolded by Miller’s investigations are pure conspiracy theorist porn, and a limp attempt at a forbidden romance sub plot between him and Adi Bielski’s conflicted terrorist mole Alayna merely cheapens things further.

The Veteran Review 2011 Film Still Like a pint sized Nicholas Cage or Christopher Walken, Kebbell refuses to let the film’s drab quality overcome his performance, playing the role of the tormented but ruthless Miller with a quiet apathy often subsidised by some actors with wild eyed arm flinging believed to win Oscars. A train journey combat flash back here, spitting onto the bathroom mirror there; it’s post warfare trauma at its most subtle and delicate.

The London of Hope’s film is a desolate and unforgiving sprawl where scenes are played out in deserted car parks, hazy pubs and garage rows in the underbellies of council estates. It’s moody as an evening spent with Kristen Stewart but it’s all so familiar, lit with the nicotine yellows and choking shadows used in any film intent on informing the viewer that Richard Curtis’ sunny, joyous view of the capital is a fabricated one.

The Veteran’s ambition is admirable, failing to settle for one genre and instead looking at several, but the film’s crude skimming over it’s diverse themes rather than a rich dissection causes claustrophobia, and not even Kebbell’s solid leading can redeem things completely.

Director:Matthew Hope
Writer:Matthew Hope
Release dates:29 April 2011
Cast,Toby Kebbell,Brian Cox,Tony Curran

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