Down Terrace - reviewed
Down Terrace has been likened to the TV show The Sopranos for the familiar tropes of paranoid crime families in a dangerous situation, but really it is more akin to the brutal film Gomorrah; not due to the grit and realism but because it is very much an outside the box concept of the mob that cinema normally portrays.
The story follows son Karl (played to schizophrenic heights by Robin Hill) and Bill (another Hill family member, Robert) his father who picks him up and takes him home after he has spent some time in prison. The credits read "performed by", and much like the claustrophobic film 44 Inch Chest this feels like a play not a movie as it is confined to the families home for the most part as odd and suspicious characters drop in and out to pay respect and drop bad news in equal measure.
The film flows in a day by day escalation and covers a week and a half. Karl is a man-child who is initially totally dependent on his patriarchs; his mum Maggie (Julia Deakin on par with Jacki Weaver's Janine from the film Animal Kingdom in terms of cold and calculating) makes tea in the kitchen and smiles to herself with his dad Bill being respected by all. A friend of the family Garvey (Tony Way) is made out to be the flunkey and servant and despite the respect he gives even he is not safe from the traitorous vicious ways of the family. Banter continues in the living room, conversations move from Bill's past to recreational drug use, spawning philosophical mutterings, "the lens of goodness, truth and beauty" is a lens that none of them possess even though Bill believes in it. The conversation finally turns to who the informant may or may not be that was responsible for putting Karl away.
Karl's conflicted and complex relationship with his father escalates when his casual partner Valda suddenly knocks on their door; she is with child and all Karl seems concerned about is what his dad thinks. Karl's instability comes out in random bursts; screams of obscenity when he cannot find some papers in his room turn to utter calm when he realises where they are. His father is no different, they leaf through a photo album together and it contains no pictures of Karl.
Bill tells Garvey he feels sick inside concerning the death of his father, Garvey believes he was murdered and because of this becomes a target and a heartless analysis that turns him into a loose end, although Garvey's fate is completely unexpected.
The insanity continues with this mixed up family world when they bring in an assassin, an Irish family man that takes his child with him wherever he goes. Karl brings his girlfriend Valda to dinner in another scene and his mum rants about her plate and the story behind the picture on it; it is a violent unhappy story through which she is basically making threats through her own cutlery while Karl cooks in the background. These scenes reflect the suburban family life turned upside down and given a criminal twist.
Things become extreme as the days pass and no one is safe. Down Terrace is an extremely black comedy with scenes of familial slaughter that are so inane that they are funny. Close-ups of the door knocker in the shape of a fox represent all the sly and cunning that lies behind it. As confusion and carnage spiral into chaos, the brutal truth hits Karl hard and he prepares to take the ultimate measure. "It's not the decisions Bill, it's the actions" Maggie says to her husband after the London crime boss sends them a message and the foreboding is laid on thick and heavy as the true informer is revealed. The Down in the title reflects the countryside of this simple town, the Terrace the house and between both locations death and betrayal comes in spades.
Down Terrace is a highly unusual mob film which focuses on personal and family issues while the actual profitability and functions of the 'business' is barely spoken about and mostly conducted in the background. All morals, ethics and values of right and wrong are thrown out the window, and all relationships no matter how close are questioned with brutality. It is a strange but highly enjoyable concept, quick witted in execution and shockingly funny from start to finish.