A Room For Romeo Brass
At first, A Room For Romeo Brass, Shane Meadows' brash and deeply unsettling follow-up to TwentyFourSeven, looks like a typical British Isles import, dressing an offbeat, insubstantial comedy in ragged Loachian squalor. Set in working-class Nottingham, the opening scenes follow the ambling adventures of two 13-year-old boys, Andrew Shim and Ben Marshall, as they lob playful insults at each other, scam food from a local fish-and-chips joint, and get themselves into minor trouble. The tone remains whimsical when they meet Paddy Considine, a quirky young manchild with a beat-up van and a peculiar sense of fashion, and aid his awkward courtship of Shim's prickly older sister (Vicky McClure). So far, so mild, with few menacing clouds other than Shim's natural father (Frank Harper), a broad-shouldered bully who makes a couple of unwelcome appearances in the family home. But then, on a dime, the scenario turns grave when Considine, fed up with the gentle ribbing his personality seems to invite, wraps Marshall in a chokehold and threatens him with a penknife. This shocking incident ruptures the genial surface of Meadows' coming-of-age tale, and sends the film reeling in another direction, with incredible tension added from Marshall's sole knowledge of the stranger's hair-trigger viciousness. Considine's wired schizophrenic is by far the most interesting character in A Room For Romeo Brass, but the moment his dark side is revealed, Meadows reduces him to a plot point instead of providing a fuller picture of his tangled, opposing impulses. Though advertised as a coming-of-age film, the story works more like an urban fable, casting Considine as an all-purpose bogeyman in order to awaken the boys to the existence of danger and evil in the world. But on that level, A Room For Romeo Brass is still a qualified success, buoyed by a gallery of charismatic performances and the unnerving sensation that anything could happen. Considering the dreary sameness of so many British imports, Meadows' prankish desire to subvert expectations shouldn't be undervalued.