Snow in Paradise
Gangland thriller from Andrew Hulme that's undermined by clichés
If nothing else, British gangland thriller Snow in Paradise provides a fantastic showcase for Frederick Schmidt. Previously seen in Starred Up, the lean, charismatic Schmidt shows signs of the brooding intensity that has propelled Tom Hardy and Jack O'Connell to the front rank of British actors.
He plays Dave, a small-time hoodlum in London's East End who's being encouraged to fully embrace the family business by his sinister Uncle Jimmy, played by Martin Askew in pantomime mode. The directorial debut of esteemed editor Andrew Hulme (Gangster No. 1, Control, The Imposter) is loosely inspired by Askew's life, with the actor co-writing the screenplay, which may be the weakest part of the whole package.
There is little consistency to Dave's character throughout the film, as the aftermath of a drug deal forces him to question the meaning of his life. He finds salvation and sanctuary when he steps into the local mosque. This is easily the most original facet of the story but it's the one that is the least developed; the film never seems to get to grips with whether he has found genuine enlightenment through Islamic teachings, or simply a place to go. Instead, the emphasis falls on much more conventional and duller aspects, from Dave's drug-fuelled descent into despair, to the way he becomes caught in the crossfire between old-school rivals Jimmy and the affable Mickey, entertainingly played by EastEnders veteran David Spinx.
There are a number of promising elements here, including the performance of Aymen Hamdouchi as Dave's best mate Tariq, but the film is flashy, uneven and shallow. Hulme brings style and atmosphere to proceedings but seems all too willing to take refuge in the old familiar: dodgy drug dealers, menacing geezers and random acts of appalling violence.
Selected release from Fri 13 Feb.