My old man wrote me a letter from prison once. It said if you don’t want to end up in here, stay away from crime, women and drugs. Trouble is, that don’t leave you much else to do, does it?
For a bit of South London scene-setting thirty (count ’em) years ago, you can’t improve much on that quote – unless you back it with the Duranies’ “Planet Earth” thumping away on a bedsit hi-fi. And that’s what Nick Love does in his guilty pleasure “The Business“, a Costa del Crime caper shot in the style of Wham’s Club Tropicana video.
The plot is so formulaic it’s almost a parody of a Danny Dyer vehicle, but the film is saved by getting so much else right. The clothes are beautifully judged – from the teenage Casuals strutting in their ICF chic sportswear (Fila, Sergio Tacchini, Ellesse) to the old lags in their proto-shellsuits and MiamiVice-suits, there’s not a mis-step from start to finish. Knowing his audience, Love doesn’t overdo the moralising, but leaves us in no doubt that “drugs” is not a victimless crime and that those who pay the steepest price are at the very bottom of its global food chain. He also ensures, in a fine, understated scene in the Malaga airport departures hall, that we are shown that there may have been plenty of push factors driving kids out of Thatcher’s South London sink estates, but there’s plenty of pull too in the seductive adrenaline-fuelled days in Spain’s sex, sun, speed and sangria soaked South London on Sea.
What elevates the film to something worth watching without a finger pressed on the fast-forward is the acting. Given types to play and a script that mixes the pedestrian with a handful of very decent set-piece lines, Love coaxes super performances from Georgina Chapman as the Trophy Wife (she’s now Mrs Harvey Weinstein Ha!) and Geoff Bell as the inevitable psycho. Even Danny Dyer himself provides a solid centre – knowing that he can be Danny Dyer without even trying in this one, he doesn’t and is all the better for it. But towering over the film in every sense is Tamer Hassan, who is unimprovable as the aptly named Charlie – all bonhomie, brotherhood and bovver. His bromance with Dyer is perfectly rendered and provides an emotional heart to offset the nihilistic hedonism all around them. In a week in which the BAFTAs have shown yet again that posh ex-drama school actors playing posh people appear to have a lock on critical acclaim, Hassan shows that people from the wrong side of the tracks might be able to offer as much to British film as they have to British music. And not a UK Film Council credit in sight.