4.3.2.1., Noel Clarke and Mark Davis, 116 mins (15)

The director of 'Kidulthood' disappoints with a girls'n'guns caper that seems to be modelled on a Snoop Dogg video

Noel Clarke wrote the script for Kidulthood (2006), a fast, aggressive, shocking look at the lives of poor, 15-year-old Notting Hillers. Its main concerns were sex, violence, drugs, bullying, suicide and dodgy shooters (Clarke starred as the villain, Sam) but it was bracingly funny and whizzed along to a groovy, Brits-only soundtrack.

In 2008, Clarke wrote and directed the sequel Adulthood, in which he reprised his badass anti-hero, released from prison after six years; it was longer, more preachy and less well plotted than the original, but at least attempted to reflect the traumas of a disenfranchised London yoof culture. Clarke was clearly someone with his finger on the throbbing vein of the zeitgeist. Last year he picked up a Bafta Rising Star award. Would he turn out to be our home-grown Spike Lee?

Well no, actually, if 4.3.2.1. is the direction he's taking. From charting the losers and villains of grim London streets, he's gone upmarket, uptempo, uptown and, frankly, up himself – happiest when filling the screen with strutting chicks, rapid inter-cutting and enough guns, cars, planes and fancy apartments to suggest he's auditioning to film a Snoop Dogg video.

The film starts with a twenty-something girl standing on a London bridge, evidently about to kill herself. Three other girls approach, apparently to talk her out of it – then one pulls a gun and orders her down. Wtf? Do you dissuade a would-be suicide by threatening to shoot her? The four girls, we learn, are friends. In fact, they are a quartet of cray-zee chicks such as only appear in movies, strikingly different in looks, height, background and temperament. There's Shannon, played by the pleasingly named Ophelia Lovibond, sweet-faced, lonesome and constantly in tears, a kind of professional victim; Cassandra (Tamsin Egerton, last seen in St Trinian's), a swishy, leggy, posh, blonde Home Counties classical pianist; Kerrys (Shanika Warren-Markland) a freakishly tall, lesbian tough nut in a succession of training bras; and Joanna (Emma Roberts – niece of Julia, daughter of Eric), a sweet-faced but whiny American who works inexplicably in a rubbishy grocery store called Teds.

It's impossible to imagine them being real friends, or conducting a conversation that lasts more than 10 seconds. Their only real function is to be Noel Clarke's Bitches, as surely as the Angels were Charlie's. Not that these girls are crime-fighters. They occupy a territory somewhere between the Sex and the City women ("If you can't find Mr Right," Kerrys tells Jo, "get Mr Vibrator") and the Spice Girls. Hell, one of the quartet tells a would-be mugger, "Girls rule!" Given the wrinkled antiquity of these chick-collectives, you wish Mr Clarke could have come up with some new template of feisty womankind.

Anyway, Weepy Spice, Snooty Spice, Dykey Spice and Yankee Spice become accidentally involved with a gang of jewel thieves, who've pulled off a heist in Holland. In London, outside Westfield shopping centre, a group of youths run through the street and collide with the girls; a diamond is accidentally transferred into a handbag and a plot of sorts develops, constantly interrupted by irrelevant narratives. Cassandra flies to New York and loses her virginity, but gets to chat on the plane to Kevin Smith, gargantuan director of the 1994 film Clerks, who has a walk-on part. Kerrys moves into Cassandra's flash apartment to enjoy hot, if gratuitous sex with her girlfriend (Susannah Fielding) and gets stuck in a panic room. In her boring convenience store, Emma witnesses her brusque-but-sexy boss (Noel Clarke) misappropriating the key to the safe, just before the jewel gang comes crashing in. Shannon weeps a lot, sprays graffiti, worries about her recently abandoned dad (a completely wasted Sean Pertwee) and is saved from muggers by a lantern-jawed, kick-boxing, Ferrari-driving babe, played by Michelle Ryan out of EastEnders. There's seldom a dull moment in Foxy Babe Land.

The male characters have a less exciting time. They converse in that cockily ridiculous street patois that your children were affecting two or three years ago, full of "You get me?" and "bruv", and are mostly hopeless at everything except pulling guns on each other. But the dialogue sometimes crackles into life. A gang of desperadoes confront Kerrys snogging her girlfriend in a nightclub, and try to abuse her. Kerrys tells them to eff off. "You kiss your muvva with that mouf?" asks one guy. "No," snaps Kerrys, "but I kissed yours."

The girls' individual stories are traced successively (and interminably) in four narratives with inter-threaded details. So when Cassandra in New York rings Jo in London, we hear their conversation – then hear the other side of it when Jo's story comes round. This multifaceted, story-from-several-angles routine has fuelled umpteen movies, good and bad, from Kurosawa's Rashomon to Tarantino's Jackie Brown, but the device is generally used to shed different perspectives on the truth of a scene. Here, it tells you nothing except which girl was where at what time.

In Empire magazine, Clarke bumptiously nominates Alejandro Inarritu's magnificent debut feature, Amores Perros, as the kind of film he was thinking to emulate. Of 4.3.2.1. he says, "It's told in a bit of an off-kilter way, which I don't think is done much in this country." Yes it is, Noel. It's done in a hundred thousand music videos that involve guns, babes and lots of empty posturing. We'd expected something a bit different. You get me?

Next Week:

Jonathan Romney prepares for a brush with Killer Inside Me, a noir-nasty from Michael Winterbottom

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
News
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own