Down Terrace (15)

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The Independent Culture

Whenever a British gangster film lumbers on to the horizon one tends to fear a) the worst and b) the appearance of Danny Dyer.

But Ben Wheatley's debut is something genuinely different: the portrait of a Brighton-based family whose humdrum domesticity makes The Sopranos look positively imperial. Its low-key naturalism feels closer to The Office than to crime drama. At its centre is a father (Robert Hill) and son (Robin Hill) who love and resent one another, the latter just out of jail and brooding over which one of their minions grassed him up. The script, by Wheatley and Robin Hill, is at its strongest in the early scenes of domestic bickering, its changes of gear from menace to mildness as sudden as they are droll. With their folk-guitar singalongs and willow-pattern dinner plates, it's sometimes hard to discern beneath the middle-class paraphernalia any sense of criminality at all. But slowly the mood darkens, a visitor from London reminds the family of their duties, and what seemed quirky becomes sinister and unhinged. Violence proliferates like chain lightning. The last reel isn't nearly so involving as the first, but there's plenty here to encourage hope for what Wheatley and Hill try next.