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Smalltime 1996
Description: Follows a gang of tiny time crooks in an English town. Malc is in danger of losing his girlfriend Kate if he doesn't spend more time at home and the gang leader Jumbo looks like he is about to lose control.
Released: 31 Oct 1997 Director: Shane Meadows Writers: Shane Meadows Actors: Mat Hand, Dena Smiles, Shane Meadows, Gena Kawecka Genres: Comedy, Drama
Trailers and related videos:

See Smalltime Clip 2 on youtube.

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Smalltime Reviews:

Glorious mini-feature from the extraordinary Shane Meadows, which shows up the amiable, timid amateurishness of LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS for what it is. It has been the stated aim of directors like Scorcese and Tarantino to demythologise the gangster, to expose him as a mundane, pathetic human being, but it never works. Maybe the style is too vivid, maybe the iconography is too strong, but the gangsters in GOODFELLAS or PULP FICTION are vibrant, vital, even likeable, motors of these films, and it is their wit and inventive opportunism we remember, not their sticky ends.British cinema has had an easier time in deglamorising its gangsters, probably because the Krays et al are not very glamorous in the first place. They're seedy, brutal, unstylish, stupid, resolutely unexotic (US gangsters are generally Italian, a compelling, operatic founding myth to begin with). Very often British movies go the opposite direction, creating relentless narratives of grim, unloveable violence.SMALLTIME doesn't take either tack. Like Olivier Assayas, Meadows 'just' movies a group of ordinary folks as they live, folks like those you probably know, or might even be yourself. They're just a bunch of lads, living on their wits, mucking about, having a laugh, drinking, talking (not in the impossibly intelligent manner of Tarantino characters), brawling, having issues with their girlfriends. This should be anyone from a certain strata in British society: they just happen to be petty criminals.Petty is certainly the word. Much of the comedy comes from the very 'small time' nature of their activities. These are not the meticulously planned heists of US cinema: in one hilarious scene, they test to steal dog food, are confronted with an unexpected and bewildering array of choice, and not realising that they don't have to climb over a back-wall door to receive the stuff; in another, they now rob a car-boot sale! The main 'heist' is a sublimely bungled attack on a massage parlour, just because its owner made fun of the Begbie-style psycho, Jumbo.Actually, it's that scene, where Jumbo's childhood friend, a wonderfully weak-willed Paul Calf-alike, who is being constantly harrassed by his girlfriend to leave his wideboy mates, and goes with her to this masseur's house, that is the film's triumph, a masterpiece of Mike Leigh social comedy. What starts as exquisite awkwardness develops into a hilarious massage between the two men, a genuinely burgeoning relationship, and ends with a harm Jumbo intruding, betrayed, aggressive, humiliated by the masseur.For all its comedy, the movie is a dark work, and Meadows doesn't flinch from showing the casual brutality of this world, especially in the hero of Jumbo, played by the director himself. For all his macho bravado, he can't satisfy his missus, who resorts to (very funny) furtive engagements with a vibrator. His aggression starts as comic, and ends in disturbing (though unseen) violence, and it is his focal presence that prevents the movie from slipping into mere patronising observation.This doesn't mean that SMALLTIME is filmed with boring, typically British, naturalism. The casual, seemingly improvisatory air conceals style which is revelatory and supremely controlled - highly stylised, bringing out through colour and odd composition, the genuinely surreal in daily life; cool, remote, often in long-shot, allowing for critical distance (close-ups are rare); but also, through editing and handheld camera, giving a true sense of being in the thick of the action, sharing the characters' highs and lows.


It's a nice feeling when you 'discover' a nice film. Especially one that due to the nature of it's budget and distribution, only you and a handful of another lucky folks will ever see. Those were my thoughts after watching 'Small Time'. Costing only a couple of grand to make, and filmed on the roads of Nottingham, it follows the everyday ups and downs, mainly downs, of a group of mates scraping a day-by-day living by ducking and diving and stealing anything to hand. The storyline leads to a grand finale, but it's the interaction and the banter between the characters that makes this movie such a fun ride, they are fully believeable. The cast are mainly unknowns, but thats what probably makes the chemistry work. The melody is nice as well, two accoustic guitar tunes near the middle of the movie are fantastic, they sum up fully how the characters are really feeling. Purchase it and cherish it, Hollywood can hold all it's 'eye candy', this is proper movie making.


The another reviews amaze me. Didn't they see the poor wigs and hammy local college of performing arts acting. The characters appear to have been bought as a past-their use-by date job lot from Stereotypes-R-Us. Harry Enfields scouser family, appearing on TV around the time this was made, are now MORE believable as true people. This is partly due to the hideous legacy that is British DRAMA ACTING. From the days of Laurence Olivier right through to the BBC dramas of today there is the received wisdom of the correct method to act. The acting in this movie is like watching performing arts students having their first go at trying on wigs and costumes in order to portray the terrible but resilient folk of the forgotten council estate. It would appear that the script, too, was written by the council. Maybe the entire movie was a council film. It certainly looked and felt like it. Like others, I enjoyed This Is England, which is the nearest Meadows has got to being a shadow of Ken Loach, and Dead Man's Shoes had some nice moments (but a stupid ending). However, this, admittedly early, effort is terrible and doesn't deserve the nice reviews given by the several folks who were brave enough to sit through the entire thing. This is not the worst ever test of a BFI grant but it is among the worst portrayals of life on a council estate that relies heavily on wigs and stereotypes.



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