JWR Articles: Film/DVD - The Plague (Director/Writer: Greg Hall) - March 6, 2007
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The Plague

3.5 3.5
104 min.

Collage of despair and disenfranchisement stimulates

“Wakey, wakey, it’s another shit day.”

Director/writer Greg Hall’s spunky first feature has much to say, mumble and show about today’s pissed-off youth. He’s crafted a film that delves into drugs, booze, fraud, racism, violence and fear with a marvelous feel of fucked-up joy as a multicultural quartet in London’s high-rise melting pot blast through a life-altering Lost Weekend. By the closing credits, the beauty of Hall’s subliminally infused visual/aural subtext (the opening collage by this is pal—Rafi Nazim, Rob Oliver is worth the price of admission—both meanings—alone; the well-in-the background clips from George W. Bush and Tony Blair don’t require any sound boost to make Hall’s point) lets thinking viewers see that older generations are just as stoned, drunk (booze and power) and confused but pretend to understand the ways of the world and will readily kill to prove it. “Children’s lives [sacrificed] for the mistakes of greedy adults” says it all.

Sheekl’s original score (the bass and high hat tension-in-the-car before the bank “heist” works beautifully; an angelic voice and harpsichord hue as The System exacts its price—ironically rich) coupled with Skinnyman’s prescient observations (“ignoring us” the understatement of the year) provide punch. The canned Christmas carols as a still stoned Matt (Brett Harris, under the skin of the character, if a bit too straight looking) arrives late for work in The Man’s Big Box store underscores the generational disconnect in yet another subtle way.

Visually, Leo Leigh’s sense of angle (the overheads: just enough), shift (near unintelligible, simultaneous conversations add to the tone and lack of understanding theme) and fun (the home-video-cam sequence at Party No. 1 delivers a fabulous feeling of “being there”) that entertain the eye and support Hall’s vision. The archival, black-and-white clip of the “menace of marijuana” is a hoot unto itself, evoking echoes of McCarthy witch hunts and institutionalized discrimination for “the love that dare not speak its name.”

The gang wars have a fine West Side Story feel, a bare-chested skinhead conjures up Royston Tan’s 15 (cross-reference below), while the interrogation sequences and riot police storming of Party No. 2 can’t help but bring A Clockwork Orange to mind. Happily, all of this works together in reinforcing the shared experience of youthful despair and rebellion—now globalized just like everything else.

The cast is energetic and enthused. With so much going on in the foreground of drug deals and parties, the development of relationships is—necessarily—superficial. Proud Pakistani (“I’m not Indian”) Ravi (Nur Alam Rahman, who should be slated for future engagements) and his father (Jeetandra Lathigra) have a textbook falling out (“You are dead to me”) that is too “on the nose”; the only real love story (an oddly sexless production) between Tom (David Bonnick Junior whose rap-and-roll duet is a showstopper) and Debbie begins with shy promise but soon becomes smothered by the raving crowd.

Similarly, the spray-paint stencil imagery sets up a timely metaphor but loses its way to a compelling payoff.

No worries. Hall’s big picture is what counts and will, no doubt, be even more engaging, enraging and entertaining with his next outing.

“Laters.”

“Safety.” JWR

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Reader's Forum
May 20, 2007

I was actually one of the cast members on that production, and I appreciate criticism. I quote you on the review "Proud Pakistani (“I’m not Indian”) Ravi (Nur Alam Rahman, who should be slated for future engagements)...." Please enlighten me with your criticism, as I would appreciate it, as I am not a professional actor, and never have claimed to be. All the other cast members have a history in Acting/Film School. I am a Trainee Accountant/Auditor. I had partaken in community projects, from which I established a relationship with the director.

Where I come from in London, things are misinterpreted very easily. Many young individuals in the Bangladeshi community do not have aspirations, they follow the influences of "Ghetto Thugs" such as 50 Cent etc. (yuck!!!). It seems as though education is not important to them.

I agreed to the role as I have enjoyed acting ever since a young age. I was the highest graded student (graded by external examiners) in my school the year I completed school. - Nur Alam Rahman (London, U.K.)

Editor's note: Thanks for taking the time to write.  My comment was designed to encourage your work (amateur or not - the camera can't tell the difference). Hopefully, your life will have room for more than one endeavour. As you're amenable, I will post a clarification of this global misunderstanding of the subtleties of the English language...  (It's a good job the words "slagged" or "shagged" didn't, er,  come up!).


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