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Sugarhouse
cast: Andy Serkis, Steven Mackintosh, and Ashley Walters

director: Gary Love

90 minutes (15) 2007
widescreen ratio 16:9
Contender DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 9/10
reviewed by Alasdair Stuart
Tom (Steven Mackintosh) wants a gun. D (Ashley Walters) wants money. Hoodwink (Andy Serkis) wants his gun back. The three men collide over the gun in a deserted warehouse in London, where their basest desire and biggest flaws will be laid bare. Not all of them will walk out...

Adapted from the stage play Collision by Dominic Leyton, urban thriller Sugarhouse is a fascinating, and frustrating piece of cinema. Effectively little more than a series of dialogues, it uses the gun, and the different reasons the three men want it, to explore not only the class structure of London but also how men define themselves in the 21st century.

The first thing we learn about Tom is that he's called Horatio. It's a subtle but definitive cue to the fact that he's both ashamed of his upbringing, and ashamed of himself, and the way Mackintosh takes that piece of information and expands it into a man who is by turns intensely patronising, compassionate and desolate is a fascinating piece of acting. Tom's an intensely dislikeable character for much of the film but by the conclusion we understand why and crucially, understand why he deserves our pity as much as our contempt.

The first thing we learn about D is that no one likes him. Thrown out of the greasy spoon where he'd arranged to meet Tom, it soon becomes clear that he's a twitching, nervous ball of energy, a junkie concerned only with getting money for his next fix. Just like Tom, it soon becomes clear that there's a lot more to him and Walters' performance is, frankly, astonishing. Running the gamut from charming to brutal to pathetic, he's smarter than he looks and deserves better than he gets. Walters has been threatening to break through for several years now and if there's any justice, this is the role that will put him over.

The first thing we learn about Hoodwink is that he's insane. Tattooed, shaven headed, and filled with rage, Serkis plays the local kingpin as a man who varies wildly from sly charm to savage, unrelenting violence. He's a crocodile of a figure, all reptilian charm and barely concealed rage, and is nothing but a constant, relentless threat to the other two. Serkis is increasingly becoming one of the most consistent and reliable figures in modern acting and again, this is a fantastic performance.

If Sugarhouse has a problem it's that, fundamentally, it's a film that isn't quite a film. The stage roots of the piece are horribly clear despite Gary Love's kinetic direction, and some people will find it too staid, too cemented. However, for fans of crime movies who want something new, or people who want to see three of the best actors of their generation turning in some of their best work, this is a must see.
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