Sprung from the crime thrillers of the post-war forties and the social realism films of the sixties, urban gangster films have become a significant installation in British cinema since the eighties, with films such as Face, The Long Good Friday and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. With an increasingly diverse culture, this genre only has more to draw on. The frustrations of multicultural urban life are the basis of many British films such as Kidulthood, This is England and Bullet Boy with upcoming film Victim the latest release in this wave of social commentary films.
Set in London city, Victim follows the lives of a gang of six young robbers and an outsider named Tia who has recently moved from the country to live with her cousin, thief Davina, as she settles into college. The film opens with a hold-up so we can see the modus operandi of the gang in action. While the men pose as street cleaners, the women are used as sexual bait to lure prospective rich men. In the opening sequence, Davina stages a date with a middle-aged man in his hotel room so as to get the gang into the hotel room and open his safe by force. Once the money has been sequestered, the gang go on an all-night bender of drugs, champagne and sex.
While the robbery scenes keep the action heightened, the character development and the web of relationships within the group are not forgotten. From early on in the film there is a suggestion that this lifestyle does not fulfil the needs of each character as much as they would let on. The scrawny white boy Mannie acts the gangster in reaction to abuse he receives at home, while Davina cannot party or shop away the loneliness frequently revealed to the audience in short but potent bursts. The main figure of desperation is Tyson, who no longer wants to be a criminal but must pay off his alcoholic mother’s debts and look after his younger sister. Following the old adage of ‘one more job and I’m out’.
The arrival of middle-class Tia hails the beginning of a new level of trouble, as familial and class tensions are set to rise. Seeing her old fling Tyson take interest in Tia and Tia’s urges for him to pursue university, Davina’s jealousy overcomes her. Her deep-seated resentment drives her to violence, to what she views as a Robin Hood act.
As the film comes to a close, Tyson’s younger sister Nyla reads out her poem named Victim; a commentary on the events of the film. As Nyla and the filmmakers wish to point out, the perpetrators are often victims too. Although we see these characters engage in ruthless acts of violence, they are dragged down by their background and the bigotry of the wealthy ruling classes.
Curve-balls keep the audience questioning, supposedly signifying how we are all victims of our fate. Victim is an interesting and layered Brit-grit that should be given a chance. [Watch the trailer]