A Downtown Pictures release of a Christopher Johnson Co. production, in association
with Storm Entertainment and Palm Pictures. Produced by Christopher Johnson, Mark
Aarons, David Chapman. Executive producers, H. Michael Heuser, Dan Genetti, Suzette
Newman. Directed, written by Julian Simpson. Camera (Deluxe color), Nic Morris;
editor, Mark Aarons; music, the Music Sculptors; production designer, Martyn John;
costume designer, Rosie Hackett; sound (Dolby Digital), Steve Haynes; line producer,
Paul Sarony; assistant director, John Rodda; casting, Elaine Fallon. Reviewed
at CFC preview theater, London, Oct. 18, 2000. (In Leeds Film Festival, England.)
January 12, 2001 | Daily Record Review
EDDIE IZZARD swaps his frocks for fingerprints by starring as a forensic scientist
in a new movie opposite Vanity Fair star Natasha Little.
The stand -up comedian stars in film noir The Criminal, which also features
Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels star Steven Mackintosh and Bernard Hill.
The film begins promisingly with a rant from out-of-work musician, Jasper (Steven
Mackintosh) against dance music.
And amazingly, this is enough to attract blonde Sarah (Natasha Little), who
promises a one-night stand that will make a man of him.
Instead, it turns Jasper into a murder suspect when she is later found in his
flat with her throat slit. Grumpy middle-aged detective Walker (Bernard Hill)
and his assistant White (Holly Aird) arrest Jay, convinced that he is the guilty
But they can't make the evidence stick, which means Jasper has a three-day
race against the clock to clear his name.
The main strength of The Criminal is also part of its weakness - the film leaps
around in time, misleading, intriguing but also sometimes confusing its audience.
The script is also sometimes splendidly dark and funny, and the performances
are all strong - even Eddie Izzard, who often seems to star in these films as
the lead albatross.
Yet, in the end, The Criminal fails to deliver the punch it promises and the
final explanation may leave audiences unsatisfied.
Still, it will be interesting to see what writer-director Julian Simpson does
January 12, 2001 | Inside Out Review by Nicholas Dawson
JASPER (Steven Mackintosh) picks up Sarah (Natasha Little) in a bar, they
go back to his flat, but before they can become too intimate, the flat is broken
into and Sarah brutally murdered. Grumpy middle-aged detective Walker (Bernard
Hill) and his assistant White (Holly Aird) arrest Jay, convinced that he is the
No messing about: along with Christopher Nolan's Following, The Criminal is the
best British thriller of the year. Like Nolan's film, this is a debut which uses
unconventional time structures to tease, mislead, and greatly entertain the audience.
The film really grabs you, the blistering first twenty minutes demanding your
attention and admiration, and never letting go. The real strength of the film
is its script, which is serpentine and elliptic to the extreme, entirely gripping
and full of wonderful, drily witty dialogue and original, and often very funny,
characters. The dark and grimy London underworld of the film's setting is well
captured by Nic Morris' slick photography and the acting is uniformly good, with
Hill particularly impressive as the foul-mouthed, narrow-minded copper.
The film does stumble slightly with the introduction of the "international
conspiracy theory" angle, and rather annoyingly fails to tie up a few loose
ends. That said, these are slight criticisms of a clever and highly entertaining
January 12, 2001 | Evening Standard Review by Neil Norman
How wise is it for young film-makers to imitate the actions of The Master?
Writer/director Julian Simpson's bizarre little conspiracy thriller is clearly
rooted in Hitchcock's great Nazi/anarchist conspiracy movies - he simply updates
the political arena and throws in more red herrings than are strictly necessary.
Hitch's mastery was in his sublime control of preposterous events; Simpson
has all the events but lets the reins slip from his hands about halfway through.
And yet. There is something likeably fresh about this film, even in its old-fashionedness.
There are few of the inyour-face stylistic tropes of similarly young filmmakers
(he's 28); the movie is refreshingly free of look-at-me direction. Rather, most
of the effort has gone into the dialogue and the casting.
Rarely has a low-budget Brit movie thrown up so many interesting faces and
performances - from the smallest (a harassed computer girl, a feisty barmaid,
a hapless undercover pursuit cop, a punky American squatter) - to the featured
players such as Bernard Hill as a foulmouthed cop and his smart female partner
Steven Mackintosh is the abused protagonist, an innocent musician whose tentative
flirtation with a beautiful girl (Natasha Little) in his local pub leads him into
an increasingly convoluted web of murder, blackmail, clandestine agencies, betrayal
and corruption. Like a latter-day James Stewart or Cary Grant, Mackintosh is trapped
in a vortex of mayhem from which he cannot escape and which he certainly doesn't
understand, as he spends most of the time attempting to elude the police (who
want him for murder) or pan-global mercenaries who want him for something worse.
If it ultimately degenerates into a series of Swat team shoot-outs, it none the
less retains a freshness and bounce that keeps you entertained. Aside from Hitchcock,
it reminded me of Howard Brenton's remarkable 1985 television thriller Dead Head,
which toyed with a similar combination of the absurd and the sinister.
Mackintosh, one of our best and least intrusive young actors, captures perfectly
the balance of would-be feistiness (his attempt to beat up a professional bouncer
is hilarious) and utter bewilderment as to what is happening to him.
In a week of lugubrious big budget tedium, this vibrant, messy little film
stands out. Simpson's next move will be interesting.
Peter Bradshaw| January 12, 2001 | Guardian Review
At just 23, Julian Simpson has made a formidably promising feature debut with
this convoluted thriller, which he has written and directed, taking its cue from
Prime Suspect and The Usual Suspects.
Steven Mackintosh is on characteristically intense and unsmiling form as J,
an unemployed musician who finds himself in a bar one night chatting up the beautiful
and mysterious Sarah (Natasha Little). When Sarah's body is found in his flat,
J obviously finds himself in the frame and he goes on the run from bloated, malign
copper Bernard Hill.
Between them, Simpson and his producer-editor Mark Aarons have come up with
some very creepy and effective scenes, and there's some nicely underplayed support
from Eddie Izzard as the pathologist. It all gets a bit too tangled and absurd
by the final reel, however, and I couldn't help feeling that the sinister and
enigmatic Shackleton organisation - supposedly the key to everything - had become
a script-alibi for plot lines that otherwise wouldn't tie up. But this is undeniably
a strong beginning from Simpson.
The Criminal (15)
| by John Marriott | The Scotsman | thanks Peggy
Director: Julian Simpson
Starring: Steven Mackintosh, Bernard Hill, Holly Aird, Eddie Izzard, Natasha Little
LAST year British directors were suppressed by the spirit of 1984. Presumably
strong individuals, with ideas of their own, became anonymous in the extreme as
their minds were invaded by the diktat that all new films had to include gangsters.
One unoriginal mess followed another, with supposed "directors" revealing
that they had barely a grasp of the basics of cinema. You felt it was only a matter
of time before producers started ringing to ask us all if wed like to have
In case you are offered the chance to make a gangster film, The Criminal might
just inspire rather than appal. At the very least, it has ambition - lots of it
- and even when it is tripped up by that ambition, or has difficulty fighting
its way out of a cul-de-sac, you cant help but have some admiration. An
ambitious but flawed film, after all, is generally more impressive than perfectly-realised
The Criminal takes its cue from film noir, and not just because it is shot in
the shadows. It takes an innocent dope who, having become caught on the sticky
web of a femme fatale, is derailed by his own gullibility. Specifically J (Steven
Mackintosh), an opinionated, penniless musician, is startled by the pleasant discovery
that the classy, curvy, husky-voiced blonde whom he has bored stiff still wants
to go back to his flat. Only streets away, a seen-it-all, hard-nut cop (Bernard
Hill) and his graduate sidekick - who supply a second tier of tension - are summoned
to investigate a murder, and they soon discover the blondes body on the
floor of Js flat.
A plot of double-crosses and framings is shot through with choking claustrophobia
and an unnerving air of seediness until credibility begins to wane when J is found
with a second bloody corpse. However, the film eventually gets back on track.
Part of its success is due to Steven Mackintosh, powerfully suggesting a man whose
familiar life is removed at a stroke, Bernard Hill, terrific at grunting, cynical
machismo, and Eddie Izzard, surprising and strong as the ambiguous forensic cop.
Gangster is no longer a dirty word.
Worthy ``Criminal'' faces tough stretch
The Criminal (Crime drama, U.K., color, no rating,
By Derek Elley
LONDON (Variety) - Penned four years ago, ``The
Criminal'' is an above-average mystery-thriller.
The biggest box office challenge for this first
feature by 28-year-old writer-director Julian Simpson will be to convince the
viewing public that it is not just another low-rent entry in the recent British
Inventively shot and buoyed by some strong performances,
the film runs out of gas in the final reels and would have been even better with
a bigger budget, but it's an intriguing ride for much of the going, despite a
shortage of marketable names in the cast.
After being screened at the 1999 London Film
Festival, and recently at the Leeds fest, pic will finally get a theatrical release
in Blighty in January. It has already been presold to almost 20 territories.
Noirish atmosphere sets in amid the main titles,
as Jasper (Steven Mackintosh), a musician, shares a late night drink in a bar
with classy blonde Sarah (Natasha Little). To his surprise, she goes back to his
apartment for some after-hours canoodling. Meanwhile, two hard-assed cops, Walker
(Bernard Hill) and White (Holly Aird), are in the middle of putting the squeeze
on a druggie (Daniel Brocklebank) in a rough London pub when they are summoned
to investigate a noisy-neighbor complaint.
In a ``Silence of the Lambs''-like editing stunt,
the cops' arrival is cross-cut with Jasper answering the door while in flagrante.
Upshot is Walker and White finding the blonde's murdered body in the apartment
and Jasper being hauled off to the police station for some heavy questioning.
Jasper protests his innocence, claiming a man forced his way into his apartment,
killed Sarah and then tried to kill him. Walker is unconvinced, but the murder
weapon is missing and Jasper is let go -- with a police tail arranged by White.
Using simple, minimal resources that give the
movie an abstract, distanced feel, story unfolds with a vaguely Hitchcockian air
as Jasper finds himself drawn into a web he can't escape. Inveigled into a peep-show
joint, he's questioned by an upper-class type (Barry Stearn) who seems to know
everything that's going on; then, while trying to trace the previous night's barman
to verify his story, he stumbles across another warm corpse left by a smartly
dressed hit man, Mason (Yvan Attal).
Like many corkscrew mysteries, ``The Criminal''
is stronger in its opening act (when brewing pure atmosphere) than in its subsequent
stages (when showing its cards), and there is an unmistakable feeling in its third
act of a dime-novel espionage thriller dressed up with one too many twists. Tension
significantly slackens in the movie's second half, when an extraneous American
character (Jana Carpenter) shelters Jasper on the run; in the final reel, the
whole plot has to be explained in a single mouthful by another character, a police
forensics expert (cross-dressing comedian Eddie Izzard, fine in a straight part),
who has played a supporting role to that point.
Still, helmer Simpson shows considerable expertise
in both action and dialogue-driven sequences on an obviously tight budget, helped
by production designer Martyn John and cameraman Nic Morris. Characters are strongly
drawn early on, with both Hill and Aird particularly good as the cops; Aird limns
one of pic's most interesting characters, not matched by Mackintosh's rather sappy
portrait of the hunted protaganist. Supports are solid, especially Little in her
opening turn as Sarah and Lisa Jacobs as a computer specialist.
For the record, end titles proudly proclaim the
movie was made ``with no public funds of any kind'' -- code for not receiving
any U.K. Lotto coin.
Jasper Rawlins ............ Steven Mackintosh
Detective-Inspector Walker ... Bernard Hill
Peter Hume ................... Eddie Izzard
Sarah Maitland ............... Natasha Little
Mason ........................ Yvan Attal
Detective-Sgt. Rebecca White . Holly Aird
Grace ........................ Jana Carpenter
Noble ........................ Barry Stearn
Clive ........................ Norman Lovett
Lucy ......................... Lisa Jacobs
Maggie ..................... Georgia Mackenzie
Jonny ........................ Daniel Brocklebank
With: Andrew Tiernan, Justin Shevlin, Sean Guest.
director: Julian Simpson
cast: Bernard Hill,Holly Aird,Natasha Little,Steven Mackintosh
duration: 99 minutes
No one is to be trusted in this stylish neo-noir thriller from British writer-director
Steven Mackintosh (a versatile actor best known for his toffee-nosed ganja-grower
in 'Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels') plays Jasper, a struggling young musician
who thinks he's struck it lucky when he meets the beautiful Sarah (Natasha Little)
in a London wine bar.
The pair hit it off immediately and, after a few drinks, head back to his place.
But what starts as a dream one-night stand turns into a nightmare, when Jasper
wakes up the next morning to find her dead beside him.
The evidence collected at the crime scene by wisecracking pathologist Hume
(Eddie Izzard, cast defiantly against type) makes Jasper the chief suspect, and
he is promptly arrested by the morose Detective Walker (the reliable Bernard Hill)
and his assistant White (Holly Aird).
This, though, is only the start of Jasper's problems, as he finds himself on
the run from the police, stalked by Sarah's killers and up to his neck in subterfuge,
conspiracy and extortion.
Though similar in style to such classic Hitchcockian melodramas as 'The 39
Steps' and 'The Man Who Knew Too Much', Simpson's stylish potboiler is too convoluted
for its own good. From the moody lighting to the dour locations, it's also depressingly,
unremittingly grim, with the only spots of humour coming from Hill and Aird's
double-act as the seen-it-all cop and his sassy sidekick.
Still, there is much to enjoy in Simpson's assured debut, not least Mackintosh's
edgy performance, even if you're ultimately left just as confused as his persecuted
review by Neil Smith (from Popcorn.co.uk)
SHADOWS ON THE WALL REVIEW
Review by Rich Cline
With a Hitchcockian premise and a lush, professional sheen, The
Criminal is a solid, well-made, atmospheric British thriller. Newcomer Julian
Simpson shows considerable talent both in the direction and the script, which
may follow traditional plotlines but veers off in unexpected directions now and
At the centre is J (Mackintosh), a hapless London musician who can't believe
his luck when his lame pick-up lines work on a gorgeous woman (Little), who follows
him back to his flat. But before he knows what's happened, she's violently killed
and two detectives (Aird and Hill) have settled on him as the prime suspect, even
though the cynical forensics expert (Izzard) can't find any substantial evidence.
Then as J tries to clear his name, he gets in far deeper, stumbling onto what
looks like an international conspiracy. Or something.
The screenplay includes enough clever and funny dialogue to keep our minds
off the story's implausibilities. Mackintosh is excellent as the man wrongly accused
... and pursued beyond what he could ever imagine. As he is pushed deeper and
deeper into the sinister goings on, encountering creepy characters of the London
underworld, we are taken with him. And we very quickly begin to wonder how he
will ever get out of it. The surrounding cast adds perfectly to the sense of menace,
and Simpson makes nice use of flashbacks to fill in the gaps (even with those
Murder She Wrote how-they-did-it clips at the end). Slick, ominous, chilling--great
(updated 11.16.99) From the London Film Festival Site (www.lff.org.uk)
You won't find first-time feature director, Julian Simpson, moaning about the
difficulties of securing funding for British films. Three years ago he enrolled
at university just so that he could collect his grant and student loan to finance
his short film, Any Dream Will Do. Now, with The Criminal, Simpson has
made a £2.7m London film noir with producer Chris Johnson. The credits proudly
proclaim: 'This film was made with real money and no public funding'. When queried
about the statement in a Q&A session after the screening, Johnson was defensive:
"The attitude speaks for itself," he argued, adding meaningfully, "We
have a particular view of public funding".
Moving swiftly on, Simpson explained his decision to cast comedian Eddie Izzard
in the detective role - "it was fun to chuck a transvestite in boring clothes
and not give him any jokes to say" - and how he ensured the London-set thriller
didn't become a tourist's guide to the capital: "No smiling policemen, no
Nelson's Column, no red buses and no Beefeaters", read the crew's rubric
at the beginning of the shoot.
Lead actor Steve Mackintosh (pictured) praised Simpson's conspiracy theory
screenplay, confessing that it was the film's opening scene - in which Mackintosh's
out-of-work musician "conducts a diatribe about what real music is"
- that immediately attracted him to the script.
Intriguingly, Holly Aird's feisty detective was originally written as a man's
role. Simpson was concerned that there was 'a male bias' and wanted to avoid making
'too much of a boy's film', so simply changed the sex of the main police officer.
The lines remained the same, however, to convincing effect. "I always thought
that I couldn't write female parts", Simpson said. "Then you find that
they speak the same way [as men]!"
1999 / 98 mins / UK
With: Bernard Hill, Eddie Izzard, Steven Mackintosh,
Directed by: Julian Simpson
Already the subject of much advance interest for providing the first 'serious'
role for comedian Eddie Izzard, The Criminal is an accomplished debut feature,
part London neo-noir and part conspiracy thriller.
After a night spent trying to impress a beautiful woman in his local bar, Jasper
is pleasantly surprised when she agrees to go back to his place. What he has not
foreseen is that his apparent good fortune will plunge him into a nightmare world
of murder, extortion and corruption.
As an intricate web of deception and fear wraps ever more tightly around Jasper,
the complexity of what he has stumbled into becomes terrifyingly clear.
This film is nominated for the FIPRESCI Award
Filming for ' The Criminal' began in March 1999. Steven Mackintosh (Lock, Stock
and Two Smoking Barrels) plays an out-of-work musician, J, who becomes a murder
suspect when a woman is found dead in his flat. He has a three-day race against
the clock to clear his name. Co-star Eddie Izzard describes it as " 'The
Fugitive' meets 'North by Northwest.' "
According to the marketing department of Storm Entertainment in
Santa Monica, CA post production of 'The Criminal' was delayed due to a
shooting delay.. Palm Pictures is now listed as the U.S. distributer. Their site
describes the plot as "full of suspense, twists and turns and speeds towards
a gritty and astonishing climax." No release dates as of yet.
BBC Education filmed five GCSE students visiting a film set on behalf of Strictly
Hush Hush. The film in question is 'The Criminal', the first feature from writer/director
Julian Simpson: in it are rising star Steven 'Lock, Stock and Two Smoking' Mackintosh,
'Vanity Fair''s Natasha Little and Eddie 'Didn't Do Much in The Avengers' Izzard.
As for the plot, let our student spies explain: "J, an unknown musician meets
Sarah during a drunken night at the bar. He has no idea", their report continues,
in words not wildly dissimilar to those in the press handout, "how the next
few hours will affect his life. Sarah is found murdered in J's flat plunging him
into a world of deceit, disinformation and" - wait for it - "state-ordered
"A lot of money", our teenage agents go on, "has already been spent
on the film. The money which they are using to hire out the Tate and Lyle plant
[in London's E16] is going back to charities". What really horrified Hush
Hush's trusty team was the revelation that £800 - think how much pocket money
that is! - had been spent for gravel to cover the floor of a sugar silo; the movie's
cast and crew had found the surface too sticky and smelly while trying to film.
The intrepid scoops were thwarted in their efforts to see the filming in process:
the day of their visit coincided with the shooting of some high-octane action
sequences, and neither the Beeb nor the film-makers would have wanted infanticide
weighing on their conscience. They did corner
Mackintosh however, who almost toppled over them coming out of the loo. The above
pictures are the result. Any more information on the filming of or background
behind 'The Criminal' is welcome.