5lbs of Pressure

David Cunningham

Writer and director: Phil Allocco

Well, this is embarrassing. While there was no trouble identifying the Liverpool landmarks used in The Batman although the 5lbs of Pressure is set in New York it was filmed largely in Manchester and it was difficult to spot a single location. But then, as Phil Allocco’s film is relentlessly seedy and grim, that might be a blessing.

Released from gaol after impulsively committing murder Adam (Luke Evans) returns to the scene of the crime. He is motivated by the urge to make a connection with his teenage son Jimmy (Rudy Pankow) which, he is convinced, will secure his redemption. There are, of course, obstacles. Jimmy’s mother Donna (Stephanie Leonidas) has ensured her son is unaware Adam is his father and Adam’s return to his old neighbourhood attracts the attention of the mother of his victim who pushes her surviving son Eli (Zac Adams) to take revenge.

Construction worker Eli and his friend Mike (Rory Culkin) have a pie-in-the-sky idea of escaping the neighbourhood by forming a rock’n’roll band. But Mike’s brother Leff (Alex Pettyfer) has a more brutally realistic view of life and grooms Mike to join his small-time crime organisation. Mike, however, is inconsistent in his enthusiasms making him something of a dangerous loose cannon liable to cause harm to anyone in the vicinity.

Writer and director Phil Allocco constructs a complex storyline with so many characters it is inevitable characterisation becomes skimpy and irritating loose ends dangle throughout the movie. There is an obvious theme of ‘family,’ but Allocco does not limit this to a comparison between Adam’s romantic view that re-uniting his fractured family will secure him redemption with his partner Donna’s careworn experience of raising a child alone. There is also Leff’s savage but caring interpretation of familial responsibilities and Eli’s obligation to revenge a wrong to his family.

The arbitrary nature, and fragility, of life may be another theme. The title of the film comes from the amount of pressure taken to pull the trigger of a gun and the character of Mike may be intended as a representation of random casual violence. Mike serves as a catalyst – pushing Eli towards violence by having an affair with his girlfriend- but the approach becomes contrived. When Mike accidently stumbles into a conflict it is tempting to cry “Oh come on,” treating it as one coincidence too many.

The film rarely digs below the surface of the characters. Rudy Pankow’s Jimmy is in a state of constant anger, but we know nothing else about him. He does not seem to be in employment or education and although mention is made of a stay in hospital its significance is never clarified.

There are several inconsistences. For a wannabe crime boss Leff has astonishingly lax security at his hideout and doesn’t investigate a break-in or seem bothered when a gun goes missing. After making a strong physical impression in the early scenes Alex Pettyfer vanishes until a fleeting appearance at the end. Eli’s girlfriend is unfaithful for apparently no other reason than to add to his sense of martyrdom and justify rash actions.

5lbs of Pressure shows the influence of Scorsese’s Mean Streets. But whereas Robert De Niro‘s Johnny Boy is frighteningly impulsive and self-destructive, Rory Culkin’s Mike is simply all over the place. It is hard to take any of Mike’s plans seriously, his efforts to form a band comprise posing with a guitar without any of the hard graft of song writing, rehearsing, or playing gigs. One minute he announces his intention to stop being involved in pushing drugs the next he plans to rip-off his brother in a drug deal. He considers robbing the bar where Adam works but settles for assaulting him in the street.

Luke Evans is the only member of the cast who shows the inner working of his character. Adam’s remorse and self-recrimination balanced against his child-like hope of redemption is strikingly apparent and shows what could have been achieved in a more streamlined movie. 5lbs of Pressure is true to its principles, rather than the cliched approach whereby a formerly violent character is reluctantly forced into action, Adam maintains a highly disciplined outlook to demonstrate his reformation.

The ambitious approach of 5lbs of Pressure results in a crowded film which does not allow for the themes or characters to be explored in-depth.

5lbs of Pressurestreaming on Prime Video 22 May.

The Reviews Hub Score

Crowded and skimpy

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