Heartless - Blu-ray Review

'a veritable melting pot of genre influences and inflections - from science fiction to straight-up family drama - resulting in a film that, whilst tonally unstable, is largely a soaring success'

Blending genres together is a dangerous game. Trying to do a horror-comedy, for example, can leave you with a Stan Helsing. On the flip side though, for every ten or so Stans, there's a Shaun Of The Dead. In Heartless terms, that makes Phillip Ridley's dark and occasionally disturbing film the good equivalent of films like Psychosis, A Perfect Getaway or even, to an extent, Shutter Island. Like those films, Ridley starts with psychological horror but adds in a veritable melting pot of genre influences and inflections - from science fiction to straight-up family drama - resulting in a film that, whilst tonally unstable, is largely a soaring success.

As protagonist Jamie, Jim Sturgess gives a skittish and focused performance which is as magnetic as many of this year's Oscar nominated ones. Uncomfortable with his physical appearance, Jamie is by turns either quietly shy or maniacally aggravated. Sturgess' portrayal of the character - flicking between dribbling mess and composed avenger - works well opposite the straight play of excellent support from Noel Clarke and Clémence Poésy, both taking on equally complex characters who wear their emotions less overtly than Sturgess'.

Without Ridley's brilliant eye for a shot and tense self-penned script though, performances like these could easily have been wasted. On a thematic level, Ridley seems to have something to say about the state of society... he's just not exactly sure what it is. As the film suggests it might swing towards hoody-horror, Ridley mixes in characters who bemoan the 'yoof' culture hooligans but do little to stop them. At one point he goes further, showing a character moaning on the phone one minute and then selling guns the next. It's a dichotomy that's never fully resolved but resolution is of little consequence; the mere fact that Ridley is observing these changing times is enough.

One of the main reasons it is enough is his camera work and cinematography, both of which touch on magnificence. Matt Gray's sharp-shooting adds to the tension and as scenes move through brilliantly-lit colour palettes (from cold-strip oranges, to artificial greens and pastel purples) each one has something to offer the film's heightened sense of urbanisation.

For all its technical know-how though (and there is a lot of technical know-how to make this low-budget a film look this good), it is Ridley's story of the demons in the streets and the demons in your head that captivates. Weaving scenes of introspective torment together with more overtly stylised, almost fantastical, elements he creates a world where little seems certain except death and violence. A Matrix-alike visit to dodgy-deal maker Papa B (Joseph Mawle) is a highlight but there's so many highlights here, the whole film thrills ridiculously well and ends with an appropriate level of punch.




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'the pieces never add up. Philip Ridley mashes-up so many different genre conventions that the first half of the film is rather incoherent' - Big Thoughts From A Small Mind, C

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