Ah, Hartlepool. The town where they hung a monkey many moons ago, and is also the setting for that golden oldie of comic strips, Andy Capp (there’s even a statue of the great man himself). With Looted, we have a film that’s another great ad for the local tourist board, but not much more.
Don’t get me wrong; it’s not that bad, but it’s all just a little bit lacklustre.
Rob (Charley Palmer Rothwell) is a young man with a lot on his mind. He lives at home with his dad, Oswald (Tom Fisher), and is also his full-time carer. Outside of this, he’s in a gang of friends that include Leo (Thomas Turgoose) and Kasia (Morgane Polanski). Their escapades mean that they frequently find themselves on the other side of the law, and all the time Rob has to come up with an alibi so as Oswald remains unaware of his extracurricular activities.
We of course know the talented Turgoose from the This is England franchise, but here he’s sadly underused. This is mainly because the story takes too long to move on. The movie does a good job of setting the two scenes early on, but gets rather bogged down after this good start. We’ve seen what Rob gets up to out the house, as well as the shady characters he’s mixing with. So far, so good. However, when it comes to his life at home, we’re stuck with a patchwork of snapshots into this for far too long. Once we’re aware of their day-to-day existence, and the relationship between father and son, it’s time to move on.
And because of this we’re left wondering so much about the protagonist. What’s Rob’s ultimate goal? What’s his journey really all about? It also means that the film bursts into life suddenly, around two-thirds of the way in, but by then it’s almost too late. Having said that, it does well in putting across some of its themes.
The acting is solid enough to portray the changing relationships and dynamics between the four main characters, as well as the rising conflict between them when it does eventually decide to step up. Polanski’s performance is a particular highlight, although with that family name it probably should be. The cinematography is something to behold – Hartlepool in the summer isn’t to be sneezed at, as it turns out – but it’s mainly the pace that lets it down, so perhaps debutant director Rene van Pannevis still has a lot to learn.
Looted is a bitter-sweet story that makes for a nice little film, but seems at pains to labour its point and could’ve been so much more.
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