Review: Plastic (2014)

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Director: Julian Gilbey
Screenwriter: Julian Gilbey, Will Gilbey & Chris Howard
Cast: Ed Speleers, Will Poulter, Alfie Allen, Sebastian de Souza, Emma Rigby, Thomas Kretschmann, Graham McTavish & Mem Ferda
Runtime: 102 min // Certificate: 15


Clambering upon the gaudy amorality bandwagon a good six months after it had already run out of steam, Plastic – an apt title for a film practically drowning in its own falseness – feels like little more than a counterfeit, bargain basement, male-centric version of last year’s most surprising gem, Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers, albeit one that comes fully equipped with an unpleasant and often pernicious side order of crude sexism that is fully embraced, enabled and excused by the film’s four leads; Speleers (Eragon), Poulter (We’re the Millers), Allen (Game of Thrones) and de Souza (Skins). It’s alright though, ‘cause it’s just “banter” innit lads?

Based on an “unbelievable true story” (apparently…) the film follows four lovable / hateful geezers – modern Del Boys if you will – as they scam their way through life, making inordinate amounts of money from credit card fraud and good-old fashioned stealing, until one day they get on the wrong side of a hilarious pantomime gangster – Marcel, played by Thomas Kretschmann (Downfall) – who gives them just two weeks to cobble together £2million or he’ll do… something… bad. I dunno, all I know is it’s all rather reminiscent of Armando Iannucci’s “East End Thug”. Anyway, with the help of Frankie (Hollyoaks’ very own Emma Rigby), a convenient plot device whose sole purpose is to act as wank fodder for the film’s prime audience, the four lads travel to Miami where they plan to pull off a heist worth over £20million, which as Will “get outta ma pub” Poulter’s character puts it, will set them up for life.

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The problems with Plastic rest almost entirely in the execution, which is just cripplingly pedestrian. For a film that tries so desperately to ape the style – though not the substance – of The Wolf of Wall Street, what with its all but unconditional adoration of obscene wealth, female servitude and unfettered masculinity, it’s amazing just how limp it actually is. Julian Gilbey’s (Rise of the Footsoldier, A Lonely Place to Die) approach to what is, at least at face value, an ambitious high-concept heist film, is so passionless – not to mention bereft of satire or cultural comment – that the film never feels like ought other than a hollow wannabe, though I guess that in itself is quite fitting.

It is thanks to this complete absence of commentary on the culture that the characters, the filmmakers and, by definition, a certain subsection of the audience appear to idolise that Plastic fails to engage on any meaningful level. The personalities that drive the film are, without exception, obnoxious, yet Gilbey’s uncritical direction and screenplay mean that we’re simply expected to sit back and watch characters we hate belittle women, flout the law and exude an insufferable sense of superiority, an experience that is, to put it mildly, a tad tedious. Were there but a hint of self-awareness or irony to the poisonous misogyny then Plastic might have been a bit more bearable, but alas it really is just a simple appeal to the lowest common denominator with not one sense of shame or criticism to be found.

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However, amidst the wreckage of a film that thrives on exploiting women and glorifying dickheads there lays a potential that goes almost entirely untapped. In those rare moments when Gilbey stops being so unbearably po-faced and embraces his film’s innate trashiness, it’s surprisingly good fun. Alas, these moments are so few and far between that they do little to salvage things. Whilst hateful, Plastic also manages to be – for the most part – a dull, lifeless affair that has absolutely nothing to say about hedonism, wealth or the attitudes of the characters to whom we’re expected to relate. The performances are a combination of atrocious (Allen), laughable (Poulter) and wholly insipid (de Souza), though with characters as hateful as these, I doubt anyone could’ve made them tolerable. Still, it might have been nice to see someone put the effort in all the same…

Plastic by name, plastic by nature, this is a film that – like the form of currency from which it takes its title – is full of broken promises, horrible realisations and fakery. It has few redeeming qualities of note, it lacks both soul and spirit and, despite wanting to mimic the glorious decadence of The Wolf of Wall Street, it’s quite criminally boring. If you like your films brainless, your women exploited and your men loathsome then Plastic might be for you. Otherwise, I thoroughly recommend giving this one as wide a berth as possible. It’s by no means the worst film of the year so far, but it might well be the most unjustifiably self-satisfied.