Think hide and seek is a kids' game? Think again. Richard Jobson's New Town Killers (2008) is a gritty cat-and-mouse thriller that follows ruthless private banker Alistair (Dougray Scott) and sidekick Jamie (Alastair McKenzie) who make down-and-out Sean (James Anthony Pearson) an offer he can't refuse. In order to make himself £12,000 to pay off sister Alice's (Liz White) debts, he simply has to hide in the city for 12 hours. Sounds easy, but the killers have eyes everywhere, and if he's caught, he'll be facing not just losing the game, but losing his life.
I bought this film on a whim, after seeing it in an ex-rental sale and finding the synopsis intriguing - and also assuming it was a US release. However, the Edinburgh setting gives a different twist on the traditional gangster movie - taking away the slick cliche of Hollywood gangster, choosing council estates as a backdrop which paints a far more down to earth picture.
Director Richard Jobson, who returned to his past as a singer-songwriter and wrote the film's theme song, is clearly at ease with this genre. The film neither drags nor rushes, and has just the right amount of violence, demonstrated brutally, but at the same time realistically, engaging with 'yob culture' in a fight between a gang of local youths and Alastair. The film's stunts are well-shot and inventive, with the character of Sean demonstrating parkour-style jumping and climbing. It is also worth commending Pearson (as Sean), a relative unknown, for performing most of his own stunts.
Scott is highly convincing as Alastair, and spits his character's misanthropic rants about those in the margins of society - who are chosen to play the game - with vitriol and believability.
On the opposite scale, White (as Alice) gave a credible performance as a vulnerable young woman whose problems were on top of her, and faced the prospect of ending up a prostitute to pay her debts. The character also acts to show Sean's soft side through his devotion to his sister, and his willingness to help her by whatever means he can.
Although the premise is an unrealistic situation, the way Sean reacts seems believable and makes the viewer question what THEY would do placed in his situation. Overall, New Town Killers is fast-paced and visually exciting. With an interesting, exciting plot and a competent cast, it ultimately showcases everything that's right with British film at the moment. A must see for fans of dark action-packed thrillers.