Well Go Usa // 2012 // 108 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron (Retired) // July 12th, 2012
Steinbeck goes British crime thriller...kind of.
Danny (Stephen Graham, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides) is a low level hood eking out a meager existence in the gritty, grimy England of the new millennium. In Dutch with a defiant gangster named Curtis (David O'Hara, Cowboys and Aliens), our rogue manages to get out of trouble with the help of his massive, mentally challenged ward, Joseph (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, The Mummy Returns). Seeing how successful size is in such situations, our baddie offers Danny a deal. Get his good-natured homunculus to fight in the illegal underground boxing matches that apparently pepper the UK landscape, or pay the ultimate price. Thus our angling anti-hero struggles to manipulate Joseph into scrapping. In the meantime, Danny takes up with a woman (Emma Stansfield) whose own life mirrors his many struggles and personal demons, while his buddy woos a prostitute (Maxine Peake, Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1980). In the end, there is tragedy.
While it cites John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men as a possible inspiration, Best Laid Plans is really nothing more than another slice of Guy Ritchie revisionism. Ever since the ex-Mr. Madonna delivered his delirious crime epics (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, RocknRolla) to a genre-weary public, his post-Mona Lisa look at English evil has dictated the way in which such dramas are drawn. Instead of sticking to his own understated sense of style, director David O'Hara (a British TV staple) samples elements from all filmed feloniousness. We get the curt threats, the uneasy wheeling and/or dealing, the defying of death and its delayed inevitability, as well as a smattering of characters who can't hold their own without a point of cinematic reference to hang from. Add in the requisite dreariness that's long since replaced the rainy, foggy face of London town, and it's veiled Vinnie Jones and pseudo Jason Statham to the rescue.
All kidding aside, Best Laid Plans does have its moments. Both main actors are excellent, though it takes a bit to buy the hulking Akinnuoye-Agbaje as addled. He's just too much of a presence to be perceived as anything other than powerful. This makes his latter work in the ring so much more affective. We don't like seeing Joseph debased. We do love to watch him physically humiliate others. O'Hara stages these standoffs with little drama. After all, our low IQ-ed champion has to survive until the last act denouement, right? As for Graham, he's always good. He trades on his diminutive size to bring a lot of vulnerable ire to Danny. Sure, we've seen him like this before, but when someone is so convincing as a con man criminal, why not let him soar. The rest of the cast remain in the background, the necessity as narrative fuel supplying most of their import, and the script by Chris Green does take its time developing the core relationships. Still for what it has to offer and how it chooses to provide it, Best Laid Plans is not awful. It's just way too familiar to seem fresh.
Visually, the Blu-ray release from Well Go USA is excellent. The filmmaker has chosen to mute most of the colors, but the blacks are very deep and there's an almost defiant level of detail. In fact, the 2.35:1/1080p high definition widescreen transfer may be the best thing about this release. It clearly captures O'Hara's aesthetic intentions. On the sound side of things, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is a bit of a mess. When there is ambient noise and musical scoring, the presentation delivers. Dialogue, on the other hand, seems to have been mastered at half the volume as everything else. This turns the viewing experience into a game of micromanaging the volume control. As for added content, there's a trailer. That's it, which is really too bad. A bit of context might have helped the overall appreciation of the film.
With its eye on classicism and its feet firmly based in the flavor of the month, Best Laid Plans is an incomplete experience. On the one hand, there's enough here to mildly entertain you. On the other, there's also little new or truly noteworthy.
Not Guilty...but just barely.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Well Go Usa
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
Running Time: 108 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* DVD Copy