Warning, this is a spoiler based review
The only reason I have heard of this film was because I'd stumbled across it whilst doing research into Jason Isaacs, then I forgot about it for years until trying to think of films to watch for this blog and I thought it would probably be a perfect selection.
The first shot of the movie is Max Beesley, telling us that the information he's about to tell us is dangerous and might just change out lives.
sticky back plastic (thank you, Valerie Singleton.) He goes on to say that most people don't bother to work this information out for themselves and all you need basic maths and a responsibility for taking control of your own life.
Just as he's about to reveal the information to us, a woman burst through the door at the back of the room with snow flying in behind her, carrying a canoe. Max helps her with the canoe and he kisses her and she runs out of the door.
Max then returns and takes us through some maths, working out how many weeks an average person would have to live, not counting sleep, your earliest or last couple of years, leaving you with a sum of about 2780 weeks, take off the number of weeks you've already had and you can see how many weeks you have left to live. (Not counting the first 6 years, I've got 23 years of weeks already used, 23 x 52 = 1196, meaning I have 1584 weeks left to live if I live to be 90 or just 544 if I live to be 70.) Max then looks at the camera and asks, "What did you do this week?" Well I'll tell you something, Max, if I've only got 544 weeks left to live and you steal 4 hours from me with your movie, (2 hours to watch, with pauses for screencaps, writing what's going on and toiler breaks), I'll personally find you and pull out your fingernails for some payback.
The film title flashes up and we see Max being led through an extremely busy and noisy office by a woman, she tells him there's no need to feel nervous and he should consider Walsh
Talent his second home and extended family, she asks if she can get him anything, he says no, she asks again, so he asks for a cup of tea and she sends an assistant off to get it.
Some clever effects and things constantly passing in the foreground add to the confusion of the scene as the woman asks Max about the 'cab', which confuses him, then the assistant comes out of nowhere and hands him the tea, then the woman asks about the 'cab' again, then two guys come out of nowhere and fling themselves around Max, walking with him and handing him a business card.
|And who the fuck are you?|
The guy tells Max he can stop by any time he likes, but warns him to stay away from his friend, Jimmy, as he's crap and irritates him. The guy has two yappy greyhounds in his office, which look strange, he invites Max to sit down, the guy tells Max to ignore the dogs as they belong to his wife and she's a slut and OHMYGOD!?!!
|It lasts for about five seconds|
The woman, Sal, comes in to tell the guy he has a call so he puts on a headset and dismisses the guy on the phone, then he starts holding Max's jaw and Sal comes in again to tell the guy his wife's on the phone and he says, "Bother us again, Sal and I shall have to resort to the gratuitous use of the word, cunt." The guy tells Max that he's achieved what so many wish to achieve at such a young age, 19, Max corrects him and tells him that he's actually 26.
The guy continues to suck up and fawn over Max and tells him that he's sure the public will go crazy over him and they are rarely treated to such a masterpiece. We then see a lift travelling downwards with the words, "The next big thing" superimposed over the top. Then we shift to a hip Saturday interview style show with swishing shakey camera and the interviewer proceeds to ask him a ton of questions, without letting him actually answer any of them properly, while techno music plays over the top. She finishes by saying that "Billy Byrne is the British Brad Matlock."
|"Who the fuck is Billy Byrne?"|
Someone in the back of the room starts playing music and the stoner guys start dancing, the guy offers Max a joint, but Max turns him down. Max says his agent has something booked for him and life is too short to miss out on the finer details.
Then we see Max in Tokyo, doing an interview on a Japanese TV Show, which let me tell you, is tame for a Japanese tv show. Then we see Max talking on the phone to someone, presumably his girlfriend, saying that there isn't long now, he has a few more interviews to do and he'll bring her a nice present.
If all of this is representing the insanity of rising to fame, then I think the director's done a good job, everyone is fake, over the top and quite mad.
We see Max on a plane, getting a head massage as two guys discuss him, then we see a magazine cover with Max on the front, then an answer phone message from the PR/Agent/Talent guy telling Max to come over to the office. We see Max now walking through the bustling London streets, he's confidant and sure of himself, his girlfriend pulls up in a taxi and they head to a club called VALVE where the crowd are dancing and paparazzi takes photos of Max. He approached by a girl in a nurses uniform who hands him something and he and his girlfriend are taken through into a back room where everyone is wearing bizarre medical clothing.
People are using medical equipment as some sort of underground fetish thing, with people performing operations on one another and other weird shit that I don't even want to describe. Max is taken to an area where the two guys he met in the office are sitting on inflatable chairs, Jason Isaacs is with them. They introduce him to a girl called Tasha who they say is going to be a big star, then Jason Isaacs who they call Percy.
Snatch does some bad DJing. Max asks if they come there every week and the two guys laugh because they own the club. Janey asks if they are all drug dealers and they all stare at her, Percy smiles and says that actually he's a singer. One of the guys says that Percy's a regular crooner.
Percy can't take the bad DJing any more and stands up and goes over to the DJ and tells him to stop pissing about and just pay the records. Max asks what's in a back room and the guys tell him he doesn't really want to know. Percy nuts the DJ because he tells him to fuck off and Janey remarks that he doesn't look like much of a crooner.
Percy picks up the microphone and starts clicking his fingers and begins to perform a, frankly, very entertaining version of "I've got you under my skin" in which he slides about the floor, occasionally assaulting the onlookers.
A guy in a pale, yellowy body bag stands up and starts ranting and two guys drag him off and start beating him up in the corridor as Percy dances for the crowd, though the guy seems to be enjoying being beaten up. Percy retrieves his microphone and starts bringing the song home whilst Max sits on a chair and a lady whom I am 99% sure is not a licensed body piercer, swabs and clamps his lip and sticks a needle through it.
Max and his girlfriend open the door to the back room and... Well, I had to see it, I don't want to suffer alone.
|"Oh my God, it's Billy Byrne! Look, it's Billy Byrne!" - The actual lines in the movie|
He grabs another street light and all the lights in the street blow out. Back at home, Janey asks Max if his lip piercing hurts while she washes his hair in the bath, he says it was worth it as it's his statement. Lip piercings don't hurt, fact. They are like the easiest piercing to get, every person I've ever met with a lip piercing agrees. Max starts going on about the clock ticking and they only get one life. Janey says she'll pay for them to go on holiday to Club Med because Max doesn't have any money, but Max says it's the wrong time.
Janey tells Max he needs to get some sleep, because tomorrow is the day his life changes. As the early morning breaks, Max goes to his roof and looks out over London at the BT tower, he then get a long shot of a dark alley and a dog running up. Then a girls bedroom, bathed in light as a girl narrates says that she never thought she was pretty or end up as a model.
He gets up and goes back to the club and dances, but no one seems to care, he goes to the back room where there is an old man sweeping up, he asks where everybody is and the old man says that they've moved on he's just cleaning up after them. We get a speeded up camera run through the streets of London, Max is all sad because his dreams have come crashing down. A girl on the streets recognises him and says he must be really depressed that after all the hype he's failed utterly, though she tells him she liked what he did and thought it was intelligent.
He says she must have a large cranium and and she thankfully corrects him that the size of the brain does not indicate intelligence. He asks her name and she tells him it's Anna, he says she looks freezing and asks for some change so he takes her to a greasy spoon for some food. He notices her canvas bag moving, she says he shouldn't take it personally that he was received so badly, all he wants is to be the best, to be valued and to make a difference. He asks what's in the bag and she says nothing and moves it. He says that he doesn't take his fuck up personally, and she says that failing can be artisically beneficial and asks for a pudding.
The guy approaches him and says, "When you shoot your beans, think of me." Which is both hilarious and scary as hell. The creepy guy walks away and Max goes to the counter to pay for the pot noodle and the magazine and the guy pulls a meat cleaver out on him, telling him to put his money on the counter. Max does, then the guy tells him to shove the money in his pocket, take his stuff and clear off. Max takes the tube, reading his magazine, a guy walks along the train asking for change, Max gives him the change he had left and explains that he got mugged, the guy calls him a bastard and walks off.
At the stoner guys house and Max starts banging on artistry again. Ok, movie, I get that Max is down in the dumps, can we move on now? It's getting a bit tiresome. Max and his friend discuss emotional resonance and how things are perceived and taken as art by the public, resulting in his friend telling Max that he's going to have to accept that he's crap.
We see the girls bedroom bathed in light again and the girl narrates about a show she's booked for, with the camera zooming in on a polaroid on the mirror. At the talent agency office, Max tells them about a plan to do something new, they tell him he should stick to what he's good at. And what is that exactly, movie? You're deliberating going out of your way to hide it from us and it's annoying. Max asks what's the point of doing what he's good at if no one likes it, they point out they liked it in Japan. Don't scoff at Japan, Max, think of the merchandising!
Max and Janey sit and have a meal, Janey tells him she thinks he's very talented, he says he just doesn't have what it takes to make it in a career he's dedicated his whole life to. Janey is looking bored of all of this and thankfully calls him on his shit, she tells him to stop fucking moaning and that he's completely self obsessed. She says that no one can drag him out of his hole because that's where he wants to be, she gets up and tells him she's not having a nice time and hands him a ticket and tells him to go by himself to meet someone who'll listen to him moan again, then asks for her key back.
At the club, we see Max covered in vomit in a broom cupboard, they throw him out of the club and he grips onto the street light, but it doesn't flicker. Two guys run out of nowhere and start ripping his clothes off and steal his wallet, they run off, then one comes back and asks Max where he lives, he gives Max some money from his wallet to get home.
Anna tells him he needs to clean up as he's covered in blood and vomit and so he goes to a public toilets place with a shower in it, as he's weeing a guy stares at him over the urinals, but he doesn't notice. he inspects himself in a mirror and two skin heads come in and pay the attendant so they can be undisturbed in a cubicle. Anna comes and hands him some clean clothes and helps to clean up his wounds and gives him a tablet of something. He thanks her and tells her he just wants to go home, she throws him his keys and he says he hasn't got anywhere to go, as Janey has kicked him out.
Anna brings him to an underground place which is locked by a large metal gate, they run through a long tunnel and Max sees other people running through tunnel offshoots. Max pauses to breathe and sees a boy dressed strangely, then follows Anna as more children appear, Anna says it's ok, they're her friends and the children run around, disappearing and reappearing.
Anna explains that no one knows that they are down there, the trap door is in a secluded, cobweb covered area and is forgotten about and as long as they are quiet, no one will find out that they are living beneath. Max ponders the silence of the opera house and Anna talks about the hopes and dreams that are built upon the stage. She says that people spend their lives waiting for their big moment, and on her trainers, she attempts to stand on her toes, implying she is some kind of dancer. She muses about the phrase "spend our lives" and says, "We spend our lives, without giving a thought to what we're buying."
Max goes to bed and we see the mysterious canvas bag again and it moves and makes a strange sound. In the morning, Anna wakes Max and shows him an article about him in the paper and tells him to get dressed. Max sees some track lines in Annas ankle and the strange guy from the previous night comes in to ask who Max in and pulls a knife on him, with lots of children surrounding him.
Max returns to the shop where the guy pulled the meat cleaver on him, with all the tunnel kids in tow and tells the kids to fill their baskets and the rob the shop of food, cash, dirty magazines and the owners bike and load into the back of a van which rotates it's license plate to evade the police. In the back of the van the kids celebrate their haul, but Max reads an article about himself in the paper.
He jumps out of the back of the van and says he's going home because it's not the kind of life he needs and Anna tells him to take her with him, but the van drives off. Max goes to see Anna who tells him it's over and throws him a suitcase. He goes to see his stoner friends, their flat has burned down and they tell Max their other friend has moved on and won't give anyone his number. Max tries a hotel, but he doesn't have enough money to rent a room.
|So, about that life of thievery....|
In a back room, Shanks tells the children that it's luckily dip time and because they did well they get a bit extra and he opens a metal tin and hands out sweets to all the children. Shanks implies that the children's sweets actually contain drugs, disgusted, Max tries to walk away, but he trips over because he's had a bit too much to drink. Shanks tries to guess what Max's drug of choice is, Max tells him he doesn't do drugs, Anna tells him you never hear about how good heroin is, but she tells him it's brilliant.
Shanks tells Max that he strikes him as a shallow boy in need of experience, then we see the tunnel again with the dog running towards the camera. We return to the girls bedroom as she narrates again about not getting the modelling job she expected as the camera zooms further into the polaroid. She says that hard work makes a model, not an eating disorder or being a junkie and she'll get work again once that phase is done with, on the polaroid we now see that it's Tasha who Max met at the Valve club earlier in the film, she closes her narration by saying, "I don't know what I'm going to do about this stupid snake tattoo."
We then see a book and the word, GREENLAND, comes up on screen, then we see Max talking to the tunnel children about Greenland and Aurora Borealis, then we return to the Max from the beginning of the film. He tells us if you want to go to the Arctic circle, head to Iceland, not Greenland, because Greenland is nothing but ice. Back with the tunnel kids, one of them looks inside the canvas bag and it's still unclear what's inside that thing.
One of the kids warns another one to be careful where he's sticking a needle, because if he sticks it in the wrong place he could get gangrene. One of the kids tells a story about a man they knew who had run out of veins for heroin and stuck a need in his bollock and hit an artery and his ball swelled up to the size of a football, then it got infected and he died. The other kids stare at him. Then they hear a banging sound and someone shouting, "SHANKS" and Anna says it's the dealers. The tunnel kids and Anna run and hide, the dealers are lead by Percy, who has several mooks behind him, Shanks looks scared in his room, Anna and Max hide in her room and Percy gets out a sledgehammer as his mooks search the tunnel area.
Percy shouts that he's going to make an example of the entire crew, Shanks makes a run for it and is gunned down, the children see this and begin to attack the mooks, who fire their guns at the children. One of the kids starts fighting Percy with a crowbar, Max and Anna smash a mirror over the head of another Mook who becomes trapped in the frame and starts firing a machine gun at them, but they are able to avoid it. Percy hits the kid he was fighting with a sledge hammer, and the kid goes flying across the room.
Severely injured, the kid opens the canvas bag and releases what looks like something out of an urban legend and the creature flies at Percy and begins attacking him and biting at his throat.
Shanks, still alive, reaches for his metal box, but Anna and Max grab it and run through the tunnels while the mooks with with bullets shoot at the kids, killing most of them. Percy finds Shanks and turns him over and bashes his head in with his sledge hammer, Percy wipes the blood off the end of the hammer and says, "And that is why they call me, Percy." Then he breaks into "When a man loves a woman" to the camera and his mooks stand behind him, clicking their fingers.
|Not making that up|
|Lazy people can find the clip on youtube|
In their attic room later, Max wipes a window which is covered in ice and he sees a building across the street. It's now December the 1st, Anna says it's her birthday, Max starts talking about the dog being on him and tries to work how how many weeks he's got left. We see inside the metal box which still has plenty of heroin left inside.
Anna tries to comfort Max as he scribbles furiously on some wax paper. We then see Max in a suit heading into the talent agency, a woman at the reception tries to stop him, but fails. We see the PR guy reading out something while Max's old friend looks on and the two agent guys do lines of coke. Max pushes past Sal and into the office. He asks if any of them remember him, and none of them seem to, he says he's there to present a new idea.
As he rambles, his former friend tells him that he doesn't listen to anything the three twats in the room with him tell him, he has to decide for himself whether or not his work is any good and the public decides whether or not he has a career. Why his friend couldn't have told him this before Max went crazy, I don't know.
Max grabs his papers and blows the guys drugs away, then he goes to the toilet and cooks himself up some heroin, but he's shaking too much to hit the vein properly. The PR guys are then in the lift, travelling down and Max stops them trying to present another idea. Back at the attic room, Max furiously shoves things into a bag, he takes the heroin and his and Annas passports and he drags her down a dark street where he trades with his former friend the quality china white for ten grand and two tickets to Greenland.
He tries to bring Anna down the street, but she won't come with it, Max walks alone and he passes the deformed beggar from earlier in the film. Max walks with a sense of purpose and into a limo that his friend hired him to take to the airport. Anna chases after his friend to get some heroin and Max gets into the limo alone. He starts taking out his piercings in the limo and as it drives along the road the street lamps turn out one by one.
The credits start to roll, then they stop and we see Anna run up to Max's friend and ask for some gear, he gives her a small bag of it and she runs off down the street and we see the dog running down the tunnel again. The credits roll again and then we get a stinger of Percy at the talent agency, being signed up and he looks at the camera and smiles.
So, this is a weird movie. There's no denying it. Between singing Malfoy's, speeded up footage, fetish operations, a guy actually being fisted and that thing in the canvas bag, I'm really not sure what to make of it.
The plot is, Max does something everyone tells him is brilliant, but it turns out it's shit, so he moans a lot and gets drunk, then gets lots of piercings and hangs out with thieving kids, becomes a heroin addict, decides to go to Greenland, sells a big bag of heroin and goes to Greenland. At some point after that, his piercing holes all healed up and he went to Iceland and met a girl with a canoe.
The film as a whole isn't really worth watching again, but I'd happily rewatch the Percy scenes as Jason Isaacs manages to steal the film and become the most interesting character even though he's only on screen for about 15 minutes total.
There are so many unanswered questions about this movie, I don't even know where to begin. Here's what I'll give the movie, the acting was excellent, the characters were interesting. The plot however is really stupid and there's far too much time spent with Max moaning about failing at life. It was very annoying, not getting to see whatever it was that Max did so poorly, because we as an audience don't get to decide for ourselves whether we agree with Anna who liked it or with the others who didn't.
Seeing all the tunnel children get shot was pretty bad.
It's not a bad film, but it's not a great film, though it doesn't deserve the hanging obscurity it's living in, so I would say if you come across a copy you should give it a chance and see if you like it.
6 out of 10