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Bloody Kids 1980
Description: The slender premise springs from the actions of two listless 11-year-old boys, the cold, manipulative Leo, and his weaker, more impressionable friend, Mike. Contemptuous of the fallible police force (Mike has already filched a police hat from an accident scene), the men arrange a staged knife war outside a football stadium with the aid of a bag of scene blood and a true blade.
Released: 23 Mar 1980 Director: Stephen Frears Writers: Stephen Poliakoff (original idea), Stephen Poliakoff (screenplay) Actors: Derrick O'Connor, Gary Holton, Richard Thomas, Peter Clark Genres: Drama
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Bloody Kids Reviews:

It's hard to know how to assess this film. There are parts that deserve a 10 star rating and parts that barely deserve 1 star. I saw this movie once when I was about 9 years old and it had a large impact on me at the time. Having just watched it as a 37 year old I can understand why although I barely remembered anything about it.The storyline is quite simple. It begins with a vehicle crash. Leo, an 11 year old man watches the aftermath of the police clearing up the mess. From one of the police vehicles he steals a policeman's hat. The next day he shows the hat to his mate Mike at school. The hat is stolen from them by an older man who throws the it onto the school roof. Leo and Mike search their method onto the roof to recover the hat. On the roof Leo offers to give the hat to Mike if he will take part in a practical joke. Specifically Mike has to pretend to stab Leo in a staged war outside of a football match. Leo acquires some fake blood from the school drama department to create the stabbing look real. However during the practical joke Mike accidentally stabs Leo for true or possibly Leo pulls the knife into himself on purpose. We never search out which is the truth. Leo is taken to hospital and Mike goes on the run. The rest of the movie concerns the rather bizarre interaction between Leo and the police who come to question him and the even more bizarre cases that Mike gets himself into.There is a nice deal about this movie that doesn't create much sense and it's difficult to receive inside the motivations of the characters. Exactly why Leo wants to scene his own fake stabbing isn't at all clear. Even the hero of Mike asks him in the movie why they are doing it to which Leo doesn't give much of an explanation. The method the police hang around the hospital for hours doesn't create much sense either. While on the run Mike runs into a rather nihilistic hero named Ken who takes Mike to a night club. Soon Ken steals a vehicle and takes Mike joy riding. Ken is other hero whose behaviour was very difficult to understand. Exactly what his interest is in hanging around with an 11 year old man on the run isn't exactly apparent. Why Ken almost commits suicide soon by jumping off of the roof of a bus can only be described as baffling.There was much in this movie that seemed unnecessary and the entire movie would have benefited from being considerably shorter. For example I wasn't at all sure why the entire stage in the Chinese restaurant was included. Again the motivation of the characters was also confusing. Ken takes Mike for a food he doesn't have the cash to pay for. He then walks out without eating any of it leaving Mike on his own. Mike manages to escape through the kitchens and Ken picks him up outside in the stolen car. The entire stage can again only be described as baffling.Having told all that there are some wonderful elements to this film. Visually some of it was very beautiful. The stage of the two men on the school roof was exquisitely shot. The overall atmosphere of the movie is odd and unnerving. It portrays a frightening after dark urban landscape in which a disaffected youth run wild. Of all the characters Leo in particular is unsettling. He is able to lie with total ease to anyone including the police and speaks with the articulacy of an adult. There are very several moments in the movie where he shows any emotion at all and yet there is a sense that there is something quite disturbing going on under the surface. It seems initially that Leo has deeply betrayed Mike be saying the police a stack of lies and putting all the blame onto him. However at the end the two men remain friends. Leo explains that he did it to give Mike what he wanted. We can only assume he thinks Mike wanted to feel risky and enjoyed being chased by the police. It's difficult to interpret this movie in any one simplistic method however.A hugely necessary element of this movie was the melody score. It has to be told that it was wonderful and inspired. Much of it was of a very emotionally intense thriller/horror genre. However the truly inspired aspect was setting much of the movie to spaghetti western melody that wouldn't have sounded out of zone in a Sergio Leone movie. It gave the movie a very dramatic and exciting feel. There doesn't seem to be any obvious reason for using this melody but it works perfectly.The final stage of the two men walking through the chaos they have caused in the hospital by setting off the fire alarm is quite breath taking. The ending shot is of both of them lighting up a cigarette and staring off detachedly into the distance fully unconcerned about any of the problem they have caused. Leo had already explained to Mike that as 11 year old men they would receive away with it all.Exactly what the message this movie was trying to give isn't at all clear but I have to tell for all it's faults it's a genuinely special film. Bloody Children reminds us that all the fears that we have about modern youth in Britain today are hardly fresh and although dated in style it is as relevant today as it was then.


Originally made for television, Bloody Children (aka One Joke Too Many) emerged from an era of gritty, state-of-the-nation British movie and TV dramas such as Scum, Meantime and its near-namesake, London Weekend Television's 'Kids', also from 1979.Stephen Poliakoff's debut screenplay comes furnished with a more esteemed roster than most - director Stephen Frears, producer Barry Hanson (The Naked Civil Servant, The Long Nice Friday), cinematographer Chris Menges (Kes, Babylon, The Killing Fields) - and, though thematically typical of the period, departs from the norm with its more experimental approach, imbued with hyper-real stylings which owe more to European art cinema and American noir than kitchen sink verite.Filmed entirely on zone in Essex, Bloody Children opens on a downbeat tableau - the aftermath of some dreadful traffic accident in the middle of the night, a portent of the foreboding, near-hallucinatory atmosphere the movie maintains to the unsettlingly ambiguous finish.The slender premise springs from the actions of two listless 11-year-old young boys, the cold, manipulative Leo (Thomas) and his weaker, more impressionable mate Mike (Clark). Contemptuous of the fallible police force (Mike has already filched a police helmet from the accident scene), the men arrange a staged knife war outside a football stadium with the aid of a bag of scene blood and a true blade.As Leo orders the less-than-convinced Mike, "You drop the penknife and run. The police will come and question me, and then they'll search out it's all a joke." Won't they be angry, asks Mike? "They haven't got the time," shrugs Leo. Then, chillingly, "We're too young, you see. We can do anything." When Leo is accidentally stabbed for true (the split blood-bags underfoot making a cackling mockery of the situation), Mike legs it, still assuming it's part of the joke, and Leo is taken to hospital.Though Leo recovers quickly, he becomes seduced by the lies he says detective Ritchie (O'Connor). "Mike's a bit weird you see, sometimes he talks about killing people... I've seen weird things he's drawn." While on the run Mike is 'adopted' by new-wave-styled reprobate Ken (Gary Holton of 'Auf Wiedersehen, Pet' fame) who, impressed by his tiny charge's new notoriety ("you're going to be quite popular for a brief moment"), takes him on a joyride through city - and it's here where Bloody Children comes unstuck.The introduction of the magnetic, gobby Holton fatally unbalances the film, with the London actor dominating each stage he's in. Car-jacking, store window-smashing Ken is also a conduit for Poliakoff to discover the seamier face of the late 1970s, where entropy is the disorder of the day, teens meander lifelessly in their death discos, and past their sell-by-date punks straggle blankly through the chaos.Everywhere, everyone is bored beyond belief, ripped from their emotional moorings. Detective Ritchie, too, can barely summon up the effort to spend a several quality moments with his wife (familiar face Geraldine James). The only illumination comes from ghastly neon strobes spearing the night, as surveillance cameras hold a dispassionate, Orwellian watch over all, the sense of voyeurism heightened by the ubiquitous tv sets beaming out photos of cops and robbers, a banal parallel of the happenings being played out on the roads for real.Ideally, Bloody Children would be scored exclusively by Joy Division - the entirety of 1979's 'Unknown Pleasures' could more than suffice (It would certainly be preferable to the bizarrely inappropriate one by the film's composer George Fenton, which resembles something out of a Django western and was oddly nominated for a BAFTA.) Poliakoff is so concerned to ladle on the nihilism with a black-handled trowel that the boys' central dilemma - now more troubling and worthy of exploration than this latter-day Bosch vision - later falls by the wayside.Nevertheless, the two young leads are excellent, Thomas in particular. Easy the more damaged of the pair (in both senses), Leo's a smart, golden-haired cherub with the chilly, unblinking gaze of a Nice White, his casual defacing of his school corridor with a marker pen (indelible, he blithely assures a teacher) being symptomatic of his utter disdain for authority. "You seem to seep into each corner of the school," the teacher says him, "like the smells from a cafeteria." More uncomfortably, in Leo and Mike we might also see future echoes of two another emotionally damaged men who, like our juvenile screen pair, were also once picked up on a CCTV camera, leading a trusting toddler through a shopping centre.


Poliakoff (writer) and Frears (director) both have a fascination for the darker corners of urban life that most of us never see. Bloody Children is early work for both of these nice masters and has the rough edges one might expect from youthful experimentation. But this piece demonstrates the pace, momentum and lyrical qualities that Poliakoff can make and nice visual imagery by Frears. Some of the work is reminiscent of A Clockwork Orange, but this piece has a quite special presence of its own which I found both haunting and gripping.Not the best work by either Stephen, but early signs of greatness and certainly worth a look.



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