'Sket' (dir: Nirpal Bhogal, 2011) Cert: 15
Debut writer/director Nirpal Bhogal brings audiences his UK urban crime drama ‘Sket’ in quite possibly the toughest week of the year. The film will be fighting with Clooney’s latest ‘The Ides of March’, Emma Stone in ‘The Help’ and Spielberg’s ‘Tintin’; all of which are fabulous films, but just because ‘Sket’ is an underdog does not mean it isn’t worth your time.
After her elder sister and carer is brutally murdered by evil crime lord Trey (Ashley Walters), Kayla (Aimee Kelly); the new girl on the block decides to take revenge on this mindless thug, but she needs help with fulfilling this task and soon finds herself involved in a tough all-female gang who know the only way to survive is to “become like them”.
With low-budget pictures depicting troubled inner city youth on the rise, it must certainly be a challenge to overcome the norms of this hybrid genre and present audiences with a visceral, fresh and affecting experience; and with a great sigh of relief, ‘Sket’ manages to deliver these goods. Rather than exploiting social stereotypes about youth crime, Bhogal’s script and direction helps viewers to emphasise with his mob of female hoodlums; they have a specific reason for their behaviour and although they act unlawfully, their scenarios leave them little choice.
This creates an unnerving and deeply realistic atmosphere and tone to the 83 minute whirlwind that snaps, spits and barks in the face of misogyny and ill treatment to women. Rough-and-tumble Danielle (or ‘Daze’) played by Emma Hartley-Miller is the psychical evidence of this - she sports a tough exterior and explodes with short but freak bursts of violence when she sees a young woman harassed or potentially in danger. This is how she and her troop meet Kayla who comes from Newcastle to live in London with her sister after the death of her mother.
|Still from 'Sket' (dir: Nirpal Bhogal, 2011)|
Bhogal’s sense of knowing allows viewers to see the repugnant violence that ensues without constantly dwelling on it. The feature is more violent in attitude, language and substance than shocking or gory scenes. For what it’s worth, ‘Sket’ only features two/three sequences of ‘strong’ violence which is why the BBFC (British Board of Classification) have granted the picture a rightful 15 certificate.
Much like every other London teen-crime movie, ‘Sket’ boasts a thumping soundtrack of grime, drum ‘n’ bass and dubstep along with manic strobe lighting which warrants a epilepsy warning prior to the picture’s opening, but despite this it would seem unfair to just call this movie a female ‘Kidulthood’ (2006) or ‘Shank’ (2010) because it provides a strong emotional core, an impressively handled screenplay and a collection of incredibly talented newcomers.
The performances are engaging and powerful all round - Lily Loveless (‘Skins’) is great as Hannah, the unforgiving and unsympathetic member who does not warm to Kayla. Kelly’s debut performance, which earned her a nomination for the London Film Festival’s awards, is an impressive and bold move for her new career. She is able to achieve the balance between timid and ferocious, and it is difficult to tell how she acts in each given situation. Also very strong are Hartley-Miller’s exquisite ‘Daze’ and Rhian Steele’s performance as ‘Shaks’ – the running girl for the hateful Trey (Ashley Walters); she has a feisty yet brilliant subtle persona that mirrors her conflicting behaviours.
'Sket’ is a bold, gritty and energetic endurance test that holds its viewers in a headlock – as far as independent British movies go this year, it’s a huge highlight.
By Chris Haydon