Tower Block (2012)

Let’s play a game of ‘Choose your own adventure’ but with a review. Have you seen this film?

If you answer YES then continue onto the review.

If you answer NO then stop reading. Go and see it. It’s brilliant. Once you’ve seen it, come back and read this.

Although this is a caveat most reviewers should slap on the front of most of their reviews, this one is especially important here. Why? Well it’s not because I’m going to be spoilerifically dissecting every plot, subplot, character and ending. It’s because you need to see this film RAW.

I bumbled into Tower Block in Frightfest knowing very little about it. Something about some people living on the top floor of a London tower block. The last people to leave, the rest of the block is boarded up and closed. The people exist in a state of constant unease, bullied by a local scumbag who – Mafia style – forces them to pay protection money so he doesn’t kick down their doors and piss in their faces. Or something equally lovely.

So far, so good. Then – BANG! – suddenly something happens. If you’ve watched the film then you know exactly what I’m talking about. Literally ‘bang’ and ‘splat’ and ‘goodbye potential new boyfriend’.

Suddenly the residents find themselves stuck inside their homes, faced with an outside invader who wants to murder them all. But why? And can they escape?

Once Tower Block kicks off – with THAT shot – it explodes into one long, taut action film, which is both as exceptionally exciting as it is ludicrous. The pace is hard and fast, the action exciting, and – if you don’t stop and think about it too much – the story is superbly original and surprisingly simple. A film in which you think ‘why hadn’t anyone thought of this before?!’

This is the second James Moran-scribed horror movie to hit Britain’s cinemas this year – after Cockneys vs Zombies – and his distinct voice (last heard at a cinema in 2006′s Severance) will not be to everyone’s taste, but those who like their horrors light on the horror but packed with personality will certainly love this.

In fact, Tower Block isn’t really a horror at all, and more of an urban action thriller. This is the third Moran feature to include lots and lots of gunplay, and it’s more akin to a brilliant Hollywood action flick (albeit a budget-shrunk one) than a horror film.

Luckily what Moran always provides is bucket loads of character and Tower Block isn’t an exception. Every character – big and small – is interesting and relatable, from the horribly shit, chavtastic mother to the gaming-obsessed kid. Naturally some audiences will loathe the ‘council estate’ characters, who all have their own quirks, flaws & moral ambiguities, but if you enjoy films like Attack the Block or Assault on Precinct 13 then you’ll love this.

Jack O’Connell is outstanding as our anti-hero Kurtis, who has an electrifying energy that is always watchable. There are also superb performances from Ralph Brown and Sheridan Smith, whose characters are both loveable and utterly tragic all at once. It’s testament to a great cast and an excellent script to have moments of comedy, pathos, terror and utter heartbreak in something that could’ve easily just been ‘another urban thriller’.

James Nunn and Ronnie Thompson do a fine job of directing Tower Block, ensuring it is tense, fast and relentless. The pace is superb throughout.

Unfortunately there are a few plot issues that some people will find irredeemable. The setting seems a little convenient, the killer a bit TOO good at shooting and the general irksome feeling that if the characters just hid and WAITED then everything would be okay… The script goes some way to address this, but it may leave some questions unanswered.

This is the third film released this year that’s set in a decaying residential housing facility, snapping at the heels of The Raid and Dredd 3D, and although those are both hardcore, brutal action flicks, Tower Block is lighter on the violence but fuller on personality and tension. Whatever the case, it’s made me NEVER want to enter one of those high-rise residential blocks ever again…

Tower Block is great. Go and watch it. It’s fast, brutal, funny, heart-warming, heart-breaking and simply a brilliant idea. Ignore the plot-holes and you’ll be in for a fantastic ride. Great stuff.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

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