Friday, 9 October 2015

No.248 : We Are Monster





We Are Monster at the IMDb

Uplifting family fun now as we enjoy a knockabout British romp set in a young offenders institution. Actually, scratch that - this is one of the nastiest and most depressing films you’ll ever see. It could be claimed to be a drama documentary profiling a shocking case of murder and institutional ineptitude but it’s just a horrible watch that offers nothing in the way or answers or, God forbid, entertainment.

The film opens at its inevitable conclusion with a blood soaked youth being bundled out of his cell as he stands over his bloodied victim. There is no explanation but we are then shuttled back a few weeks so that we can understand how we got here. To be honest they could have covered the ground in two minutes - mental racist kills Asian cell mate. Still if they’d went that way we wouldn’t have had the full 90 minutes of nihilistic fun and racial slurs.

The subject of the film, which is ‘based on a true story’, is Robert a self tattooed racist who has been in the system for years. He is in for threatening a call centre worker and seems off balance from the start. Before long he starts talking with himself - literally as his nasty persona takes form as himself whom only he can see. This leads to lots of scene where he is egging himself on to greater and greater feats of nastiness whilst the P.O.V.s of other prisoners show him to be talking to an empty seat.

The prison officers, who include Clem Fandango, aren’t much use and aren’t shy of a bit of casual racism themselves. They put Robert in a cell with Asian youth Zahid who is in for stealing razor blades - before long he’s going to wish he went with a beard! Zahid tried to be friendly but backs off when Robert gets more aggressive and introverted. Zahid is due to be released in a few days so resolves to keep his head down.

Robert meanwhile starts to delve into his past and tries to rationalise his situation. The film does the same with an abusive childhood and faults in the system the reason for Robert’s mental state. Some of these scenes were well done with his brown underpants wearing father beating him up as a child for wetting the bed. The film isn’t too apologist for Robert’s ultimate act but you do get the sense that they are showing him to be a victim too.

As the film moves towards its inevitable climax we are left to wonder what could have been done differently and what have we learned. Should we have watched that Adam Sandler comedy instead? Maybe!

This is an impossible film to like with its endless racist rants and unsubtle swipes at authority and society. They was an effort to explain Robert’s actions but that veered away from his own responsibility and while he was broken by the system he’s still a murdering scumbag with no redeeming features.

The film was hung on the central performance of Leeshon Alexander as Robert and he did OK with a difficult dual role. As ‘normal’ Robert he was too starey and manic and as his alter ego he was annoying and shouty. He did have difficult material to work with though, as he was spouting a lot of garbage that even the KKK would see as a tad extreme.

The closing captions of the film lay all the blame at the authorities’ door, and of course there were shortcomings, but to make apologies for the central scumbag didn’t sit right and you have to wonder about the point of the whole enterprise. The film’s vibe was hateful throughout and all I came away with was a grubby feeling for having watched the whole grim spectacle.

Best Bit - No I can’t hear you Clem Fandango
‘W’ Rating - 8/23

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