"British crime films are as much a part of British culture as fish and chips and a cup of Earl Grey"

British crime films are as much a part of British culture as fish and chips and a cup of Earl Grey.

From John Boulting’s Brighton Rock (1947) and Mike Hodges’ Get Carter (1971), right up to Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998), and Snatch (2000). The latter two, as you would expect, both being from the pen of Ritchie, share similar themes, ideas and motifs, and by hearing some of the dialogue in this movie from director Ben Pickering, it is clear that he has been inspired by Ritchie’s work. Ritchie’s presence is there throughout the film, not just in the theme of causality but in the guise of two of Ritchie’s stars – Stephen Marcus and Mr Brick Top himself, Alan Ford…essentially reprising his Snatch role for this low-budget release penned by Darren Ripley.

City lawyer Brad (Matt Di Angelo) is down on his luck. He has lost his job; his girlfriend Sasha (Anna Passey) has left him for his best friend Tom (Christian Brassington) and as a result, he has forty-eight hours to move out of her glamourous London apartment. In the meantime he has also fallen for mysterious call girl Jodie (Lili Bordán). So, when he overhears a conversation between two drug dealers (Stephen Marcus and Darren Ripley) working for old-school gangster Jack (Alan Ford), he decides to seize an opportunity to bag £400,000 cash.

The Smoke isn’t what you would call original. The dialogue is hammy and overdone and apart from a few humorous exchanges between the villains and some one-liners from crime lord Jack, it fails to impress. The plot isn’t much better. It could’ve featured in an episode of Eastenders. Over-elaborate, slow paced and Matt Di Angelo isn’t a convincing lead actor. Most of the characters are shallow, one-dimensional and, with the possible exception of Jack, instantly forgettable.

Visually however, the film makes good strides. The backdrop is London and cinematographer Bruce Melhuish does an impressive job of capturing the capital in all its form. Dark, gritty and dare I say, with some rugged honesty, plus some nice background shots overlooking Tower Bridge and Covent Garden. The action is of a decent standard but minimal, with an attempt to make a more dialogue driven film. Ultimately this doesn’t work, but the ambition is admirable.

With an easy to follow, not necessarily original story, The Smoke deals primarily, with the theme of causality and demonstrates exactly how much your life can change, forty-eight hours in The Smoke.