Universal // 2010 // 117 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // July 31st, 2012
4 girls. 3 days. 2 cities. 1 chance.
They say you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, and that's equally true for movie posters. Based on the cover, 18.104.22.168 (Blu-ray) promises to be a sexy crime thriller judging by the somewhat scantily clad women and somewhat thuggish-looking gents. The fact that the tagline is "4 girls. 3 days. 2 cities. 1 chance" only makes it sound more like some kind of sexed-up thrill ride. Instead, it's a story of four young women who get caught up in a jewel heist by accident. Though the film aims for a Tarantinoesque narrative jumble that ties together the stories of the four women featured on the cover, it can't maintain its energy.
The plot of the film revolves around the way the lives of four women are changed as they encounter the fallout of a diamond heist. The film is told in four segments, one each for the four women. Their lives include a dead-end supermarket job and a airplane ride to meet an internet boyfriend, but on this night that's all about to change.
Noel Clarke is probably most visible in America as a companion on a couple of series of the revived Doctor Who franchise. His character Mickey is a kind of slightly-dumb, happy-go-lucky guy from the council flats. It's a good performance because he's convincing despite the fact that he's spent much of the last decade writing and directing movies in addition to his actorly duties. He's got an eye for performance, and he's spent enough time doing independent British cinema to know talent and have accumulated some cred.
That credibility must have come in handy, because by far the best thing about 22.214.171.124 is the cameos that writer/director Clarke has mustered. Kevin Smith appears on the jet, poking light fun at his then-recent mishap with Southwest Airlines. Singer Eve also makes an appearance as well, and she's brings an infectious sense of fun to her role. Smaller parts also go to veteran British actors like Sean Pertwee (Dog Soldiers) and other oft-seen faces like Alexander Siddig (Clash of the Titans). Even Noel Clarke's performance is fine, and he coaxes solid performances from all involved.
Solid performances, however, do not make a good film, let alone a great one. 126.96.36.199 is littered with problems that no amount of acting can solve. The first is its runtime. At almost two hours, the film is at least a half hour too long. Thrillers rarely succeed beyond 100 minutes, and this one goes on for another 17 minutes past that. Instead of tight and thrilling, we get slightly bloated and mildly interesting. Part of the problem might be the film's other structural choice, giving each of the girls her own story. By playing one girl's story and then returning to an earlier timeline to run the next girl's story, Clarke is aiming for Tarantino but doesn't have the chops yet to pull it off. Instead, there are sparkling moments in each story (see the aforementioned cameos) but also too much dead time as the stories unfold. Patient viewers are rewarded with lots of connections between the stories, but it's a paltry reward for two hours' investment.
The same cannot be said of this Blu-ray. The 2.35:1/1080p AVC-encoded transfer is excellent from first moment to last. Detail is strong, colors are bright, and black levels in the frequent night scenes are consistent and deep. Flesh tones are especially impressive across a range of skin colors. There are no digital artifacts or difficulties to speak of. The DTS-HD surround track is similarly impressive. The dialogue is clean and clear from the front, while the surrounds get a bit of use during some of the film's more tense scenes. Ambient effects are also used effectively, doing a great job of creating atmosphere.
The film's lone extra is a 22-minute behind-the-scenes featurette that covers the usual production material and cast and crew interviews. It's not the most informative extra, but it does a fine job with the basics.
Noel Clarke obviously has loads of talent and experience making lower-budget features. 188.8.131.52 shows that he has a good film in him as both writer/director and star, but sadly this one just isn't it. If he could trim some of the fat while maintaining his commitment to strong performances and fun cameos, then he would have a shot at having an indie hit on either side of the pond. For now, 184.108.40.206 might be worth a rental for his fans or for fans of those -- like Eve and Kevin Smith -- featured in the film.
Guilty of being a bit too bloated.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 117 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated