Red Mercury Reviews
With a cast of great TV actors, Stockard Channing, Pete Postlethwaite, Juliet Stevenson, to name but a few, and an excellent script from the writer Farrukh Dhondy, I was definitely interested to see the film when it was listed on satellite TV.
What other films with the subject nature of terrorism fail on is insight into character. As a long standing British Asian writer and educator, Dhondy has a clear insight into the three dimensional Asian terrorists he has created (all well played by young, little known actors). These are people he understands intimately, and represent the patchwork nature of British Islamism. Further, Dhondy does not flinch from telling harsh truths, both about Muslims and Non-Muslims. It is a must for all who want an insight into the roots of British Islamism.
Moreover, Dhondy's gifts as a storyteller also shine through and his script is intelligent, funny and gripping, a rare combination. His only fault is in trying to pack too many characters and plot-lines in. I can understand he was trying to create a climate around the theme of generation gap and cultural degeneration, but the tapestry feeling seemed a little contrived.
What lets the film down is its clearly pathetic budget. In a small, low-key drama, this hardly matters. However, in an upmarket, 'big' thriller such as this, the cheap production jars in the eye of the viewer. This doesn't matter so much when dealing with the holed-up terrorists and their hostages, but on the parallel plot following the police, it really shows. The police seem to have the resources not of the entire Met, but of a village police station. Related to this, the direction, while competent, is also uninspired, making it look very much like another piece of unoriginal TV, and there is one truly howling continuity error, for which the editor should be shot (figuratively, of course).
Red Mercury certainly would have been better off as a Channel 4 Mini Series, instead of the childish, unimformed Britz (even stranger when you consider that Dhondy himself was a senior Channel 4 Executive). It is also a real shame that this film was made in 2005, clearly just before the London Bombings, as its ultimately upbeat message was obliterated by the actions of real 'home-grown' terrorists. This must have been one of the reasons for its commercial collapse when it was finally released.
Barber Ali, Alex Caan and Navin Chowdhry star as British Muslims that are building a dirty bomb. The police recieve a tip about them, and so the terrorists flee from their apartment. The police are in hot pursuit though, so the three take refuge (and hostages!) in a Greek restaurant. The heart of the film is about how the terrorists interact with their hostages, and how the police are MI-5 work in the background for a peaceful resolution to the situation. Yes, we find out that the terrorists have feelings, too. That they are British born and loved the same TV shows and football teams as many of their hostages. Yes, we find out that some in the police force (the stereotypically macho types) want to use ruthless force on the terrorists, while others want to use finesse. What we [i]don't[/i] find out until the end is a secret that MI-6 has been keeping from both 5 and the police.
There are a lot of problems with the film. One is Stockard Channing, who plays the Greek owner of the restaurant; at first you think she's simply mangling a horrible British accent (it's not until about 10 minutes into her scenes that we figure out that she's supposed to be Greek; once you find this out it's slightly more believable). Still, she and Pete Postlethwaite seem thrown into the film just to add [i]gravitas[/i] to a script that can't support it. In my eyes, the people that wrote this film were rejects from [i]Spooks[/i], people that applied to Kudos (the company that makes [i]Spooks[/i] for the BBC) and were rejected. In fact, the film feels like a [i]Spooks[/i] cast-off. And even though the film is about the victims more than the people that save them, that's exactly what this film is - a rejected [i]Spooks [/i]script, written by people that were rejected as writers by the show. It's not awful, but it's not that great, either.