Written & Directed by Will Thorne
One last job – that’s all they ever want. But when you owe someone, and we mean owe someone, well – you’ve just got to do as you’re told. Mark, a recently released hitman from South London, has only one interest following prison, his family. Specifically, his daughter Daisy, to for once step-up as a father and live a simple and clean life, but his former cell-mate Alan has other ideas. Mark’s former ‘employer’ Caddy is looking to thin the hunting grounds and fend off a few of the new crime families emerging in London. Roping Mark into one final hit, Silent Night taints the lead-up to a white Christmas with a few pebble-dashes of crimson.
Character-based, Silent Night follows Mark’s attempts to execute three brothers running a successful and fast-growing crime family. Will Thorne’s film avoids unnecessary glamour and encourages the seemingly ordinary of London’s crime circuit to drive the idea that this is all around us under our noses. Café’s, parks, suburban lanes and auto-shops house much of the film’s interactions, and this is where the writing plays to performer Bradley Taylor’s strengths. Taylor’s choice in drawing Mark down to a broken level, but not so far as to be melodramatic, shows a man determined to find a life for his family, but unafraid of the consequences of his actions. It’s a rigid, yet charismatic in delivery performance, with edges sharp enough where required, and bounces off Cary Crankson’s more unhinged Alan tremendously well.
Thorne’s writing and direction of the partners ensure the significance of the pairs dealings to the plot, tying Taylor and Crankson’s chemistry together to elevate Mark’s character. The eventual story-arc, well stitched into the flow of the film, makes for a chilling conclusion which explains much of the film’s previous questions and illusions. Perhaps the highlight of Thorne’s writing, this deceptive play mirrors the thievery and treachery going on under Caddy’s nose, layering the film’s writing.
The yuletide festivities through the film don’t become a prominent feature until the closing third, but they’re a welcome addition. Silent Night, a mob film seemingly set at Christmas doesn’t deck itself in the holiday season as richly as it could have. With a myriad of Horror and Action film’s set during Christmas, there was an opportunity to push the colour palette of the film, and in the singular scene this is done, it’s highly effective camera work. As too is Keiran Merrick’s soundtrack, drudging the traditional carols into the grime and dirt with which we find ourselves, for some delightfully twisted versions of your favourites.
It sets the tone of the film, corruption of the every day and recognisable. The characters, despite their organised crime backgrounds, are played principally grounded and realistic, save for the occasionally unhinged goon, but it’d be a sin not to have at least one over-the-top thug in a gang film. Silent Night’s recognition is what sells Thorne’s film tremendously, the locations, settings and street corners fend off the ludicrous shoot-outs or romanticism of the genre, and instead unearth a mafia-next-door plot which might make you look differently at the neighbours.
Key to this is the enjoyability of performances, even with the heinous actions these men and women undertake. Joel Fry and Nathaniel Martello-White never leave their apartment, and yet become an integral part of Silent Night’s humour and flow. The more intimate scenes, where Mark seeks aid from former gang runners and can appreciate the brief spell of the Christmas spirit are the film’s strongest scenes and forge an investment from the audience, Fry and Martello-White’s interactions with Taylor a serious addition as to why this works so well.
And where Thorne builds rapport with the audience and investment, Silent Night seems rushed towards the finale – an oddity given the dialogue intensity in some scenes. The sudden changes in powerplay can work with quick pacing, but the film parcels itself up and while tying a neat little bow leaves a few frayed edges. What Silent Night does achieve is an investable, engaging British gangster film with wicked humour and a smart edge, it just needs to load a few extra bullets into the chamber to drive the impact home.
Silent Night will be in UK cinemas from December 11th, and can be bought on Digital Download from December 14th and DVD from December 28th.