A chance encounter with diamond thieves throws the lives of four female friends into turmoil. Jo’s in a dead-end supermarket job. Cassandra’s jetting to New York to meet a cyber-boyfriend. Kerrys is ticking time bomb of female liberation. And Shannon’s on her uppers, about to throw herself off a bridge. How their stories collide, unwind and come together is the core of Clarke’s energetic thriller.
Playing with film like he’s breathed it for years, Clarke scripts and directs. Riffing on the time-stop, rewind plotting made famous by Pulp Fiction and Run Lola Run, it still feels fresh. Smart dialogue and feisty playing give colourful edge and Clarke crams in the action. Mistaken identity, innocents abroad, accidental involvement in dangerous deeds – it’s all been done before. Hitchcock, Tarantino, Danny Boyle. But not so slickly in this country, nor so assuredly, for many a year. Mouthy it may be, but it’s street-smart and cine-literate too.
Changing perspectives, upending subplots, overturning expectations - it keeps you hooked. A Mexican standoff in a supermarket, a panic room lock-in, an airplane cameo from comedy king Kevin Smith: Clarke’s construct effortlessly blends enough incident for several movies. And hits on some issues too – date rape, suicide, friendship, loyalty, family. The female leads seize the script with gusto. And Michelle Ryan’s cameo is quirky and crucial to the plot. As varied as their stories, the actors all add colour to Clarke’s movie. An action-crime-thriller in the multi-story vein of Love Actually, it’s carried off with brio.
Genuinely engaging, it avoids the lad mag excesses of some girl-fest films. Sure there’s some girl-on-girl, but Clarke doesn’t linger, caring more about his characters, and avoiding over-titillation and sexploitation. Which means it’s probably the first girl-power film for a long-time actually to appeal to a female audience. Hip and lippy, it’s a breeze. But don’t be fooled. Noel Clarke’s a formidable talent. And in years to come, if he doesn’t crash and burn, his name could be up there with Britain’s finest film-makers.