DVD Review - Shifty

Daniel Mays (left)
and Riz Ahmed in "Shifty"
This British film was made in 2008 and remained across the pond until Breaking Glass Pictures decided to bring this independent production, written and directed by Eran Creevy, to the American DVD market in October 2012. It stars Riz Ahmed as the titular character, a low-level, London, drug dealer. Ahmed is of Pakistani descent. He's also a music artist who does hip hop. This is of course not uncommon for a hip hop artist to star in a crime drama or movie about hard inner-city life. Rapper Plan B would do the same in Harry Brown (2009). The British film critics and even the British Academy of Film and Television Arts or BAFTA hold Shifty in much higher regard. This is in part due to the work of Creevy, which drew comparison to Oscar-winner Danny Boyle's work in Trainspotting. While the film probably won't reach that kind of classic status, the comparison is not that far fetched. What helps is the performances of Creevy's actors, especially Ahmed who would go on to make a bigger splash in Christopher Morris' Four Lions (2010). He was also appealing in Michael Winterbottom's Trishna (2012), but, hopefully, he'll make more of an impact when Mira Nair's The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2013) hits theaters. It's more of an American story with certainly more American actors with whom he's worked until now.

His co-star here though is British actor Daniel Mays who plays Chris, an old friend who perhaps used to do drugs with Shifty. Chris comes to visit and finds Shifty living with his older Muslim brother, Rez, played by Nitin Ganatra (EastEnders). Shifty is shunned by his parents, most likely due to his drug deals. Shifty secretly stashes drugs in his brother's house and spends the whole day with Chris as he goes around selling crack cocaine to various people. Most of the deals are played for laughs, except for one involving a guy named Trevor, played by Jay Simpson. Trevor loses his job and is desperate for drugs, so he stalks Shifty, which is all meant to be a bit terrifying.

During one drug deal, we see a poster for the film 24 Hour Party People, a context clue for the fact that this movie is only a day in Shifty's life. Some films have been able to reveal a lot about a character depicting only one day of his or her life. Creevy's narrative reveals the bare minimum, but I would argue far from enough. An unspoken truth about Chris is deliberately held from us but I felt like we learned more about Trevor and his wife than we did about Shifty.

It's one of the most reoccurring decisions that characters in movies and literature have to make. It's the decision of whether to stay where you are or go to some place different, some place far away. Chris presents Shifty with that choice. Because of a few wrinkles that Creevy introduces, one option for Shifty might also be death. Creevy does a good job of building up that tension, but everything wraps up almost too conveniently. It seemed that way perhaps because I didn't care about the antagonists or felt all that threatened by them.

Three Stars out of Five.
Not Rated But Recommended for Mature Audiences.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 27 mins.


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