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TwentyFourSeven (1997)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of TwentyFourSeven (1997)
35mm, black and white, 96 mins
DirectorShane Meadows
Production CompanyScala Productions, BBC Films
ProducerImogen West
Written byShane Meadows, Paul Fraser
PhotographyAshley Rowe
Original MusicNeill MacColl, Boo Hewerdine

Cast: Bob Hoskins (Alan Darcy), Mat Hand (Fagash), Sun Hand (Jordan), Sarah Thom (Louise), Sammy Pasha (Jimmy), Gina Aris (Sharon), James Corden (Tonka)

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Nottingham, the 1990s. Darcy, a middle aged man, who has fared badly in Thatcher's Britain, restarts the boxing club of his youth. His efforts to offer constructive activities for disenfranchised young men seem to be paying off, but are cut short when his temper gets the better of him and the club falls apart.

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Shane Meadows' first full length feature, TwentyFourSeven (1997) paints a picture of Nottingham that is defiantly local, while strongly critical. Local knowledge is paraded with humour (Dundee biscuits are apparently made in nearby Uttoxeter), but the flipside of this affection is evident in the first reading from Darcy's (Bob Hoskins) notebook, "when our town died, we, with our young in hand, were just beginning".

Aided by Ashley Rowe's bleak, intimate black and white photography, Meadows depicts a miserable life where you have to spit on your chips to avoid them being stolen. The local lads are so at odds with their environment that they use their socks as toilet paper when caught short in the forest, and greet the offer of a trip to Wales with blank faces and bad attitudes.

The lads' wonderful comic repartee convincingly evokes relationships on the threshold of adulthood. Justin Brady's joker Gadget is particularly endearing, at one point pretending to have caught an obviously long-dead rabbit.

Meadows' deft comic touch also extends to the adults of the piece, notably Tonka's local hard-man father Ronnie, played by Meadows regular Frank Harper, who manages to make lines like "you can't go through life being fat and stupid, let's get cracking right away" sound affectionate. Ronnie's brooding macho menace is, surprisingly, not the source of the film's inevitable violent crescendo, where Darcy gives in to his dark side in a fit of rage against Tim's father (Bruce Jones).

The film's central assertion, further explored in Meadows' later work, is that the sins of their fathers impact upon and transform these young men. The various dads are cleverly juxtaposed in the film's best sequence, which moves between families to create a picture of frustration, delusion and abuse.

Darcy initially appears the ideal father: tough and manly with Knighty (James Hooton), but also gentle and sympathetic with overweight Tonka (James Corden). He forgoes his one moment of happiness, with a local shop girl, to aid drug addict Fagash (Mat Hand). When Darcy reveals himself to be as weak as all the rest, he retreats to a short life as an alcoholic vagabond.

Life catches up with this over-optimistic crew and their failures come to the fore again. Though Darcy warns Knighty, "you lose your temper, you lose, full stop", both men helplessly fall into the same trap.

Jonny Bugg

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Video Clips
1. Rabbit hunting (5:55)
2. Father figures (2:44)
3. Outside the ring (3:06)
Hoskins, Bob (1942-)
Meadows, Shane (1973-)
Scala Productions
Teen Terrors On Film