Huh, good old Mickey Smith from 'Doctor Who' made a movie. How about that? Dubbed '18.104.22.168,' the crime/thriller flick is actually actor Noel Clarke's second effort as a director, and this time he shares those duties with first time feature filmmaker Mark Davis. While I'm a big Whovian, I wasn't terribly familiar with Clarke's work outside of his time in the TARDIS, so I was cautiously optimistic when I popped this disc in. Unfortunately, that optimism gradually dwindled as the runtime went on. Juvenile, derivative, and full of unrealistic female characterizations, at times the movie plays out like a silly adolescent fantasy. While there's certainly some entertainment value, the experience lacks real substance and creativity. You see, it turns out that just having attractive women kicking ass, holding guns, running around in their underwear, and crashing cars is not enough to equal a good movie. Don't get me wrong, it could be a good start, but the story and filmmaking need to be interesting too, and sadly that's rarely the case here.
'22.214.171.124' -- which oh so cleverly stands for "four girls, three days, two cities, and one chance" (a chance for what, I'm still not sure) -- follows the exploits of four young women (Emma Roberts, Tamsin Egerton, Shanika Warren-Markland, and Ophelia Lovibond) who inadvertently become involved in a major diamond theft. Following four different perspectives (one for each main character), the story is told in a quartet of intertwining segments spanning the same three day period. Each girl embarks on her own individual misadventure that eventually crosses over into a much larger story. With a gang of criminals in hot pursuit of their stolen loot, the friends will have to band together or risk losing not only the diamonds, but their lives as well.
Emulating the visual and/or narrative style of films like 'Go,' 'Pulp Fiction,' 'Run Lola Run,' 'Trainspotting,' and the numerous works of Guy Ritchie, the movie unfortunately fails to reach the same heights as the various films it "borrows" from. Clarke and co-director Davis employ a kinetic, fast-paced visual style with lots of quick cutting, shaky camera movements, and split screen. While this cinematic flash can be fun, it all feels very familiar and never really adds up to much. At best the style offers a few cool shots here and there, and at worst it just serves as a thin veneer trying to mask the film's thin plot and characterizations.
The multiple perspective structure has a lot of potential, but unfortunately none of the individual stories are all that compelling or creative. In fact, they're mostly kind of silly (especially a New York set escapade that involves a particularly terrible lonely nerd stereotype). The final segment, focused on Jo (Emma Roberts), is the most interesting, but it's still fairly lacking. Likewise, despite the high-octane style, the episodic nature of the narrative makes the movie feel longer than it is, and certain stretches drag. The scripting can also be muddled, and even after all the stories finally come together, there are certain aspects of the plot that remain a little unclear and underdeveloped. Movies like this usually benefit from multiple viewings, but the flick just isn't good enough to warrant another look. In the end, when the patchwork plot does fully assemble, it's all very anticlimactic, and I was sort of left thinking, "Really, that's it?" Of course, the conclusion does setup a sequel, but based on this mediocre showing, I doubt one will ever materialize.
It's refreshing to see an ensemble of female lead characters, but their quick-talking, tough-chick personas wear thin pretty fast. The whole girl power bent of the story also feels a bit corny, and a lot of the incredibly unrealistic dialogue and situations seem to be heavily geared toward a male audience (the women like to talk about vibrators and open doors in their underwear). While there is some attempt to make the girls well-rounded, this frequent on-screen objectification makes the characters seem more like male fantasy stereotypes (one's even a lesbian), than actual human beings. Couple this with the script's already crass sense of humor, and the whole thing just feels very immature. Hell, I could practically hear the filmmakers gleefully snicker off-camera during an unapologetically sensationalized sequence where two girls make out on-screen. Basically, this is a movie about four hot girls that's made by two dudes, and it shows.
If the unrealistic characters weren't enough, there are also some frequent lapses in logic that can be quite eye-rolling. Several plot points rely on far-fetched coincidences, and while this is a common occurrence in films of this type, at times it just feels like lazy writing. On that same note, characters will often make idiotic and perplexing decisions just to serve the narrative. In the second half of the movie, one character is revealed to be a criminal, and I'm not really sure why his coworkers don't just turn him in right away. Their delay doesn't really make much sense. Also, there's a scene where one of the main girls (who probably weighs about 100 pounds) pulls a gun on three professional criminals. In return, they all pull their guns as well, leading to a stand-off -- and for reasons I can't begin to fathom, the three trained criminals suddenly decide to submit to the skinny girl by handing their weapons over to her lanky, unarmed boyfriend. What the hell were they afraid of? It was three on one, and she's really tiny!
Idiotic logic aside, the movie does still have some entertainment value. As immature as the whole thing is, the various dangerous situations the girls get themselves in can be fun and exciting (even if a lot of them are quite dumb). Likewise, the cast is actually pretty good, and the four female leads all do a very solid job with the uneven material they're given. A rather bizarre and eclectic assortment of supporting players -- which includes Kevin Smith, Mandy Patinkin, and Eve (you know, the rapper) -- are also decent, but oddly out of place. Had the movie actually gone even further with its stylistic excess and inherent silliness, it might have actually been more successful. As it stands, it still tries to take itself at least somewhat seriously (sort of), and any attempts at real drama or emotion (a major subplot involving one girl's suicidal depression, for instance) don't really work.
'126.96.36.199' is a film about four hot girls -- frequently in various states of undress -- getting into trouble and kicking ass. Wait a sec, why didn't I like this movie? Oh right, because it's really stupid. Juvenile, unoriginal, and filled with comical lapses in logic, the movie feels like it was made by two adolescent boys (though not to the extent of something like 'Sucker Punch'). I haven't seen Clarke's previous writing and/or directing efforts ('Kidulthood' and 'Adulthood) but they seem to have been fairly well received, and as far as I can tell this is a sizable step backward. Still, shallow as it might be, there is some entertainment value here. Though totally derivative and superficial, the movie's high-energy style provides some solid action, and certain sequences are exciting (so long as you turn your brain off). The four young actresses are all likeable, and while their characters aren't very realistic, they have nice chemistry together. If you're a big fan of similar hyper-kinetic, multiple perspective flicks, then you might want to give this a rent, but be warned that it's nowhere near as compelling as other superior efforts in the genre.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Universal brings '188.8.131.52' to Blu-ray on a BD-50 disc packaged in a keepcase with a cardboard slipcover. After some skippable trailers, the disc transitions to a standard menu.
The movie is provided with a 1080p/VC-1 transfer in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio. While the picture boasts impressive detail, the heavily stylized aesthetic won't be for everyone.The print is in pristine shape with a light to moderate layer of grain. Clarity is often exceptional with a sharp image that shows off nice detail. With that said, the film's visual style veers toward an overexposed look. These high contrast whites can sometimes wash away fine details. The color palette is frequently cast in cool hues, giving the image a very blue appearance. Still, within the chosen palette, colors remain nicely saturated and vivid with nice pop. Black levels are solid but appear a bit grey in some nighttime shots.
While the frequently blown out image does lead to a comparatively harsh aesthetic, the film's stylized appearance fits well with the hyper-real tone of the narrative. It's certainly not realistic or natural looking, but that really isn't the intent.
The film is presented with an English DTS-HD MA 5.1 track along with English SDH, Spanish, and French subtitles. Aggressive but a little unrefined, this is a solid track that bolsters the movie's fast-paced action.
Dialogue is full and clean throughout. The movie's thumping soundtrack of techno and house beats features nice separation and low frequency response, giving the mix some deep thud. Imaging is smooth and natural, carrying specific effects (a character riding a bicycle, for instance) through different portions of the soundstage. General ambiance and isolated directional sounds (a door knock, dogs barking) hit the rears and move about the room, opening up the soundfield with a decent but not exceptional sense of immersion. Dynamic range is high, and the track gets quite aggressive during the film's more exciting moments. With that said, the sound design can get a little too "in your face," lacking finesse. Still, the mix carries strong fidelity and a very welcome, full-bodied kick during specific action sequences.
Though a bit uneven (certain scenes feel comparatively small), '184.108.40.206' sounds pretty good on Blu-ray. The sound design could use a little refinement and consistency, but the mix proves to be fairly enveloping and exciting.
'220.127.116.11' has attractive women, decent style, and a few cool bits of action. Unfortunately, it also has a messy, uninspired script, comical lapses in logic, and improbable female characters who often resemble male adolescent fantasies more than actual people. It's immature, uneven, and pretty stupid, but it's not without its momentary charms. The video quality is very good, but the high contrast, heavily stylized cinematography does wash away some detail. Though a little unrefined, the audio mix brings some solid punch and immersion. There's only one lonely supplement, but it offers some decent information about the production. A middling effort through and through, '18.104.22.168' provides some sporadic entertainment, but is far too uneven and dumb to really succeed. For most, this is a rental at best.