Writer Julian Simpson
Stars Steven Mackintosh, Eddie Izzard, Bernard Hill Certificate n/a
Running time 98 mins Made UK, 1999
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 guilty party.
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 film. Nicholas Dawson