You Have Been Watching…New Town Killers

I’ve written previously about Richard Jobson with reference to his films Sixteen Years of Alcohol (see You Have Been Watching…16 Years of Alcohol) and A Woman in Winter (see You Have Been Watching…A Woman in Winter ). The former is an autobiographical tale of drink, violence and the redemptive powers of music and love, and the latter is one of the most interesting and stylish Scottish films of the last 10 years. But Jobson is not a man to limit himself to to one genre of film, or who is a slave to the art-house. Sometimes he simply wants to entertain. This is true of his rarely seen 2004 martial arts movie The Purifiers, but never more so than with his 2009 thriller New Town Killers.

You could call New Town Killers a cross between The Running Man (the Bachman/King novella rather than the Arnie movie) and Michael Haneke’s 1997 film Funny Games, but put simply it is a chase movie through the streets of Edinburgh, as James Anthony Pearson, recently seen in Lip Service, is offered a life changing amount of money if he can survive 12 hours being hunted by twisted bankers Alastair MacKenzie and Dougray Scott. Jobson uses the city brilliantly as Pearson seeks out Edinburgh’s darkest nooks and crannies to avoid his pursuers. There are some good performances here, in a movie which stays the right side of over the top. Pearson plays the desperate Sean, a young man who becomes the perfect target for the thrill seeking psychos Jamie and Alistair (MacKenzie and Scott respectively). I’ve mentioned before that I’m surprised that Alastair MacKenzie is not a bigger name, and there are also some nice supporting performances from Liz White and Charles Mnene. For you Whovian completists there is also a blink and you’ll miss it appearance from Karen Gillan as ‘Young Girl in the Bus Stop’.

Then there is the dilemma of Dougray Scott. I’m trying to think of a film where Scott really acts. Maybe I’ve never forgiven him for his terrible turn in Gregory’s Two Girls (see You Have Been Watching…Gregory’s Two Girls), although it would be beyond churlish to put the blame for that disaster solely on his shoulders, but it seems to me that his acting style consists almost wholly of squinting into the middle distance, with just the hint of a slight cast, and…then…talks…in…this…slow…drawl…that is…supposed…to denote..menace…, but sounds to me like he’s being played at the wrong speed. Don’t get me wrong, I can see the appeal of a dark, handsome, brooding presence, and when interviewed he seems like a lovely bloke, but it would be nice to see him branch out. Although having carved out a successful Hollywood career I’m sure he’s bothered.

New Town Killers takes a little time to get going, but when it does it rattles along at a fair old lick, and is genuinely thrilling. It would have been easy for Jobson to follow the then popular torture porn genre, but although there are scenes which are not for the squeamish, he focuses on jumps and scares rather than an over reliance on claret. This is someone who understands the genre, and that is what you must remember about Jobson. This is a film fanatic. In that sense he is Scotland’s Tarantino.

Here’s the trailer followed by the video for the title track which Jobson co-wrote with Isa and the Filthy Tongues. He just can’t give up control:

Next up for Jobbers is Helter Skelter, a thriller set in the Grampians, followed by The Somnambulists, a film which focuses on 15 real life testimonies of service men and women who were involved in the Iraq conflict. This pair of films sums the director up. He doesn’t see the division between high and low culture that others seem to hold as important, he just wants to make films. And I, for one, am glad that he does.

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