"Clichéd and ridiculous, Hughes has created a film that could be classed as a parody..."
Britain has a real issue with the promotion of home-grown cinema, with a distinct lack of self-exposure. Other countries appear to make it more of a requirement to help boost their own films, but Hard Boiled Sweets is a prime example of why we don’t promote our films more. Of course the axing of the UK Film Council hasn't helped - but let's not show this film to David Cameron, he doesn't need any justification for what is otherwise an ill-judged decision.
Set in Southend-on-Sea, David L.G. Hughes’s production centres on a host of criminal opportunists, chasing a briefcase bearing over a million pounds. Such royalties belong to Jimmy the Gent (Peter Wight), travelling to the beach town to collect money from local crime lord Shrewd Eddie (Paul Freeman).
Yet Eddie's glamorous, younger girlfriend Porsche (Ty Glaser) has her eye on the money, as does corrupt policeman Fred (René Zagger) and brutish pimp Gerry (Adrian Bower), amongst others, as the supposedly close-knit group of expedients will do whatever is necessary to get their hands on the much coveted case of money.
Despite supposedly being a hard-hitting, gritty crime drama, Hard Boiled Sweets is one of the funniest films you'll see this year, without actually having any intention of being comical. Clichéd and ridiculous, Hughes has created a film that could be classed as a parody. Alas, it's not supposed to be a spoof, and the fact it takes itself seriously makes it a joke to be laughed at, rather than with.
The line between what's authentic and what's a spoof is thin and somewhat blurry, as the film's tag-line "No Soft Centres" would suggest. In fact the build up to seeing this film posed quite a challenge in working out whether I was in store for a comedy or a bleak drama, highlighted in the production notes which claimed Southend to be the "Vegas of the Third World". Third World!? Have they ever been to Ethiopia? Or Southend, for that matter.
The dialogue proves to be the film's worst aspect, with a plethora of atrociously crude and vulgar one-liners throughout. There are a handful I would absolutely love to share with you, but my Mum reads these reviews. The performances, in fairness, are not actually that bad, it's just the script those poor actors have to work with is nearing diabolical. In some ways a shame, as the cast is half-decent, with respected actors such as Philip Barantini and Elizabeth Berrington featuring, the latter, who has worked closely with Mike Leigh over the years, must have wondered what she had gotten herself in to. I smell an unemployed agent or two.
Despite being Hughes’s first feature film, Hard Boiled Sweets feels like a picture that has been done a variety of times, latching on to the once-popular British cockney-gangster dramas that were prominent a decade or so ago, with filmmakers such as Guy Ritchie and Nick Love. Yet such a genre and formula now feels incredibly dated and completely out of touch with reality. Had this film come out in 1998 it may have done quite well, but the witty-yet-gritty British cockney drama has simply been done to death, and it requires quite a production to shake off such abstractions, such as the forthcoming Wild Bill.
The only positive concerning Hughes, is his creativity. As despite the generic nature of the film, there is certainly an underlying intention to be different and unique, with some nicely framed shots, both well-lit and original.
Yet such positives wear thin in an otherwise disastrous production, as both nonsensical and hapless, Hard Boiled Sweets is an inane and fatuous feature. Exceedingly wasteful in parts, highly enjoyable in others, despite being for all of the wrong reasons. The production is embarrassingly derisory, notable in that Joe Cornish's Attack the Block provided a far greater insight into modern British culture; and that had flipping aliens in it.