Sunday, November 05, 2006

MISCHIEF NIGHT - very funny, highly recommended, deeply depressing

Gori slapper!Watching the new British comedy, MISCHIEF NIGHT, you can't help but have a lot of fun. It's just brimming over with uproarious anarchic life. Edited at a mad-cap frenetic pace, filmed in saturated colour, full of larger than life characters, and skirting with major social issues at a pace that would make David Cameron's head spin, MISCHIEF NIGHT packs in a hell of a lot into its 90 minute runtime. The story is ridiculously complicated and the movie feels like an old-fashioned caper movie. But at its heart there's a story about two families - one Pakistani immigrants - one English natives - living on an estate in modern-day Leeds. For non-British readers, this is a part of the world where racial tensions between the Pakistani (Muslim) immigrants and the English community are high. And in this film, they are played out against a background of drug use and poverty. One might think this was hardly the province of comedy but it is tribute to writer-director Penny Woolcot's script that the movie is very, very funny. We get gags about poverty, single mums, domestic violence, heroin addiction, Islamic fundamentalism, arranged marriages, paedophilia, homosexuality and more besides. This is truly one of the bravest treatments of modern British society seen on the big screen - far more gritty than movies like EAST IS EAST or BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM - and it comes as no surprise to find that the movie was produced by the guys who brought us the outstanding but similarly harsh British TV sitcom, SHAMELESS.

Like I said, I loved every minute of this movie, and I would thoroughly recommend MISCHIEF NIGHT to anyone looking for a good popcorn movie. But the more I thought about it afterwards the more depressed I became. Because despite the genre-satisfying happy ending, the underlying picture of modern British society is deeply depressing. This movie focuses on a slice of society in which drug use is endemic, children bring themselves up, going to school when they can be bothered and seeing mere burglary as the moral alternative to drug-dealing. It's a society in which the mosques that were built with the meagre savings of waiters and taxi drivers are being taken over by militants - and can only be taken back with the help of armed-up drug dealers. (Militants are bad for business!) I know that this movie is a caricature of society but if it contains grains of truth its a sad look out for us all. Interestingly, my mum and dad (who saw MISCHIEF NIGHT separately from me) also found the movie quite sad because they could relate to the adults in the film who were commenting on how race relations in the UK had changed over the generations. For them, the movie was acutely perceptive, not least in its assertion that England was more overtly racist and yet bizarrely more integrated and nicer to live in when they arrived back in the 60s and 70s and that it was sad that it had become more politically correct and yet more segregated today.

Anyways, you can take or leave the sociology. The key point is that this is a well-acted, brilliantly scripted film that will make you laugh. Highly highly recommended.

MISCHIEF NIGHT played the London Film Festival 2006 and is now on release in the UK.

1 comment:

  1. Shameless is quality TV. Great drama & great comedy!