Review: Terry – a fly on the wall peak at London’s street culture

Writer/ director/ actor Nick Nevern has definitely found a platform to show himself off: playing the role of London yob Terry in this faux-documentary drama about a dodgy london geezer and his ‘friendship group’ cum clan. They are hooligans and this is a close up and dirty portrayal of yob culture; street thugs with knives, drugs and attitudes. The film is essentially a gritty fly on the wall peak at Terry’s chaotic life and it’s an absolute masterclass on how to make a film on budget, shot on a camcorder and with a budget of less than £500! It could be perceived as a “happy-slap” flick, but honestly, it is much more than that.

Our camera man is introduced; given a name, Charlie, and a face – metal studded with a goatee, he looks much rougher than he sounds. He’s a film student making a documentary for his end of year showcase. He never really elaborates on his exact purpose behind filming Terry and crew, but it is implied that it’s kind of a social experiment, “a human study”. His subject: a sturdy, bald bloke with a predilection for cigarettes and the word ‘fuck’. He’s the very definition of streetwise and he doesn’t take any shit.

This is Terry. He’s a waster. He gets up in his dingy apartment, sparks a fag and then brushes his teeth with his finger over the kitchen sink. He drinks 90% of the day, and the other 10% he does coke. When Terry is around, a knife is never out of reach and things can turn sour, from amiable banter to violence, in an instant. He meanders from party to party with no ambition besides a drink and a good time. It’s a different life, a different culture, and it has different rules – specifically: there are none. Spencer is like the damaged chick Terry has taken under his wing. He’s a wannabe playboy who ends up spending most of his dough on prostitutes, and he sticks to Terry like glue. The two are “basically” best friends. Billy Black is a wannabe gangsta thinking he’s a wise guy. He talks the talk but he can’t walk the walk. He pisses Terry off.

These are the three central protagonists, and although we are slowly introduced to the rest of Terry’s posse, these are the three with whom most of the dramatic action takes place. There’s a lot of testosterone motivating these macho characters, and with so much conflict between the main parties things are inevitably going to get out of hand.

Terry walks a fine line that may not even exist, between a raw, brutal drama and a feel-good buddy movie. Yes it’s brutal, it’s savage and it’s totally unapologetic, but it’s never very intense. It retains an almost light-hearted and nonchalant air throughout, which is a relief because in a different light the content could have been too dark to watch. Instead Nevern finds humour in the unlikeliest of places and it’s difficult not to be swept up in the groups good natured jibing, and nonsensical banter. The chances are you’ll find yourself grinning at the most inappropriate times!

Much like Man Bites Dog, the fantastic french faux-doc about a serial killer, Terry approaches it’s subject with no prejudice and no rule book and it encourages the viewer to do likewise. Also similarly to that film, the camera man Charlie starts out determined to remain distanced from his subjects but is inevitably engaged by them, influenced by them at times, which makes for an interesting visualisation of the effects of peer pressure, affecting both the camera man and the viewer totally subconsciously.

As with most films shot in this handheld style, usually ‘found footage’ horror ventures, the shaky camera work is occasionally over-exaggerated to the point of distraction and in an effort to remain realistic, the voices aren’t always clear in the sound mix, particularly in the pubs and clubs they visit in the first part of the film. (This could also be attributable to the aforementioned £500 budget!). However, the real achilles heel of Terry is actually the pacing. When the action kicks off it is extremely gripping and easy to watch, but it’s a long time before anything really grabs your attention. In fact, I think this is a flaw recognised by the film makers as the film begins with an unnecessary and in hindsight, quite jarring false start, presumably with the intention of sparking some interest before a low key first forty minutes.

For a certificate 18, Terry is surprisingly un-graphic and inoffensive. It is littered with almost constant drug abuse, and every other word is a swear word, but there is no gore and practically no sex, although the one sex scene is a grotty threesome. It’s likely the reason it has been donned such a high certificate is the realistic and cavalier attitude of the characters towards drugs and violence. There is no underlying moral about a correct code of conduct here, nothing to indicate whether their behaviour is acceptable or not, and without a negative stance towards these things, the BBFC will always designate certificates harshly, and perhaps quite rightly too.

Terry is a film that could have gone in so many directions, and the final route it ended up taking might not be the best one. To borrow a phrase from Downey Jr., there are vaguely sinister undertones to the beginning of the movie, Terry is described as “not human”, and is often seen apart from the group, introverted. Or in the midst of a lively evening out, we’ll catch a glimpse of him, staring savagely, suddenly possessed by some inner turmoil and rage.

Everybody seems to respect Terry but as the film progresses you realise that the ‘respect’ is actually fear. People are afraid of him, of his irrational mood swings and sudden bouts of aggression. Terry will batter you for looking at him the wrong way and then carry on laughing. Terry’s mental instability seems to escalate throughout, and at times he goes totally haywire. His state of mind could have been an interesting avenue for the film makers to explore – indeed, initially I thought the film was a portrayal of one mans gradual descent in to insanity through a storm of drug and alcohol abuse. But not so. Nevern had other ideas in mind and in the final act, the film seems to veer off at a tangent and resolve itself in a manner quite unexpected.

Terry is out on DVD now.

An Interview with Terry’s Nick Nevern

A couple of months ago I was given the fantastic opportunity of interviewing Nick Nevern, the director, lead actor and writer of low budget, cult indie-movie, Terry. The interview was on behalf of Smell of Napalm and was first published on that website as an exclusive. Nick Nevern was a pleasure to talk with despite being on set at the time; honest, forthcoming and very friendly, I felt like we were having a drink at the pub. Enjoy the interview.

What were your goals when you set out to make Terry?

Oh, fucking hell! [laughs] What were my goals when I set out to make Terry? Just to make something cheap that people could look at in years to come say and say you know, “wow, if that guy made a movie for that little, maybe I can make one as well” you know? I think I wanted to inspire people a little bit, and I also wanted to create a story of where I lived, representing people that I knew.

In the release notes you refer to creating an honest portrayal of characters and situations you grew up with –

Yeah, absolutely man.

Would you say that Terry is in any way autobiographical then, even vaguely?

Um…not really. I was a bit of a wild kid I’m not going to lie, but I was nowhere near a bully or anything like that, like Terry is. Terry’s a bully. If you look at the people he fights in the film and the people he starts on, no-one is like, his size or his…you know, and I wanted to show that as well, do you know what I mean? People are calling this film a gangster film and shit like that. It’s not. It’s not a gangster film, it’s a portrayal about one guy who is just really unhappy with himself. So I wouldn’t say it was autobiographical in anyway, but I do know people like that and I don’t think you can play a character like that convincingly unless you’ve kind of lived that life a little bit.

You obviously have quite a diverse TV career, but in terms of films, this is your first major role – is that something you’ve always aspired to and want to continue doing?

Oh absolutely! It’s funny because I’m on a feature film right now so yeah…if Terry’s the biggest feature film I’ve ever done then this has got to be the second. I’ve done a few before but not massive parts or anything like that so hopefully that’ll change.

What film are you on now?

I’m on a film called Outpost: Black Sun. I’m playing a Special Forces Commando by the name of James Carlisle who’s basically part of a group of six special forces unit, basically fighting against sort of, crazy, nazi types.

Sounds interesting…

Yeah, it’s a bit of a mad one.

Is there any possibility that we might get a glimpse of Terry’s uncertain future in another film at a later date, or have you sort of made your statement and you’re going to leave it or…?

Well a few people have asked if I want to do a sequel and it opens itself up to a sequel obviously quite well. But…I do want to do one and I’ve got a great idea for it. I’ve got a great idea for what I would do for the sequel! Obviously I’d make the sequel a bit bigger budget, do you know what I mean, get a better camera out! I’d do it a bit differently. Same style, same documentary style, but it would just look a hell of a lot better. But yeah, there are talks of a sequel. We’ll see how this one does, if this one flops well then there’s no point. If people want to see more then I don’t think Terry’s story is over.

That’s wicked! I’d definitely like to see a sequel.

Well yeah, I’ve got a great idea…we’ll see how the first one turns out. If people like it, and it sells well on the dvd and stuff like that. I mean, I always knew this was a DVD movie. My producer Jason Maza wanted it to go to cinema which it did obviously, but I always knew that the market would be on the DVD.

Were you strongly influenced by films shot in vaguely similar style, Man Bites Dog for example –

Oh, I love Man Bites Dog!

So that’s a parallel you’re happy with?

Oh yeah, yeah, absolutely. It’s not the first time that Terry’s been compared to that in any way. Obviously Man Bites Dog really broke the mould in that style of movie. Obviously you’ve got your Blair Witch Project and stuff like that, and you’ve got your Australian movies like with The Magician which is obviously a documentary style film following a contract killer…these things have been done before I guess. But what I tried to do with Terry is…you see the thing with Man Bites Dog is it’s an amazing, original piece but it just wouldn’t happen in real life, do you know what I mean? So I just tried to making something that might actually – could – happen.

It is cool when it ends and you see that, when you read as if it’s real and you see what happened to them, you’re just like: no way!

Totally man, totally. That’s the thing, a lot of people when they watch the first 20 minutes, half an hour through, a lot of people watch it and go, “what the fuck am I watching here? What is this, seriously? Is this for fucking real mate?” And obviously as it goes on you get that its not real, or maybe you don’t, I mean, a lot of people don’t! But I was heavily influenced by Man Bites Dog and Magician and films like that really. I’ve got to be honest, I’ve got no money! Someone wrote a review about Terry saying it was “low budget for low budget’s sake,” I think it was The Times yeah? The Times wrote, “Terry is low budget for low budget’s sake.” I don’t even know what that means! I made it for £500 because that’s all I had! I wasn’t trying to make like… it’s not like I had a million quid in my pocket and I thought, “I know what I’ll do, I’ll make a film for £500”. I wasn’t thinking like that, you know what I’m saying? Some people just don’t get it. They just don’t get that I was making it because, you know, I had no money. If I had a million pound I would have put a million pound in to it and then it wouldn’t look the same and it wouldn’t have the same effect.

This is your debut feature, has it been easy getting it off the ground, developing it from concept to completion or was it a bit of a struggle? What sort of problems did you encounter?

Basically, I had the idea to do it fucking ages ago. Like it was a different idea back then, it was more of a documentary about a real gangster and then I watched Donal MacIntyre’s film ‘A [Very] British Gangster’ which follows Dominic Noonan around for three years as a gangster in Manchester and I thought, “fucking hell, the geezer’s just taken my idea”, like obviously it was a real thing, but I thought “shit, that’s what I wanted to do”. So then I just sat it on a fucking shelf for ages and then I just thought, I’ll do it, but not about a real person. So then I called my mate Ian Duck who plays Spencer and I said, “listen mate, I wanna do this little thing, do you wanna do it?” and he was like, “yeah”, so then I called Manuel and I went to school with his older sister, I’ve known him for years. Everyone in the film that you see I’ve known for fucking years, absolute donkeys you know? So yeah, I made it and then it was like 2 hours long or something. Then Jason Maza got involved and he cut it down by about 45 minutes, he edited the soundtrack, I don’t know too much about that, so he sorted all that kind of stuff, and then obviously Lionsgate and stuff got involved and it all came together in the end. It was a bit of a struggle getting it to a certain point because no-one wanted to fucking touch it! The distributors have been fantastic, Lionsgate especially, it’s a £500 movie man, and they’ve pulled out all the stops. They’re advertising it well.

Do you prefer writing, directing or acting?

To be honest I prefer acting the most. Acting is where I started, it’s my bread and butter. Direction is something I’ve only got in to recently after Terry. I’ve just directed a music video for a guy called Snakey Man, ‘Making Moves’, it’s on YouTube, it’s featuring Noel Clarke, and it’s the actual music video for Terry, so there’s loads of cameos. So yeah, I’ve only done a few things, and I obviously want to do more, but acting is my bread and butter without a doubt.

What would be your advice to any aspiring writers and directors?

You can do it! If I can do it, you can do it! The Times said, and I quote, “The actors showreel is dead. Now all aspiring film makers need to succeed is a camcorder, a few willing mates and a few like, unbusy weekends” or something like that yeah? They were trying to diss me. They were trying to fucking diss me, but it’s true. If you’ve got people around you that want to get involved and do this: go and make your film! It doesn’t matter if it’s on a camcorder or a mobile phone or a 7D or a Red, you know? Make your film man. Don’t be shy, don’t be scared, don’t care what people think man. If you’ve got a story, go tell it.

Lastly, a question on a lighter note – what’s your favourite film?

Oh, what’s my favourite film? Oh man, we were talking about this on set actually. I don’t know, there’s so many.

Alright then, top 3! List a couple.

Obviously I’m a big fan of, you know, your Godfather’s, your Goodfellas, your Scarface’s…but I’m going to tell you, and this is an exclusive now! [laughs] My favourite film…of all time…is…Young Guns. Have you seen it? With Kiefer Sutherland, Charlie Sheen and a couple of others, and Young Guns 2 is the first ever movie, I’ve cried since, but it was the first ever movie that made me bawl like a baby man. I watched that, and when the geezer dies in it…man, it was…I haven’t cried so much since Jamie Mitchell died in EastEnders man.

How old were you when you watched that then?!!

[laughs] But anything by Scorsese I’m a big fan. And British films. I love British films. Anything British. Anything British I fucking love. Dead Man’s Shoes, that’s a fucking good one.

Well, thanks very much for your time Nick, and congratulations on a great movie.

Monsters – Trailer and Review – imminent release on to DVD and BD

Here’s the brand new trailer for Monsters which will be landing on DVD and Blu-ray this coming Monday, 28th March. If you don’t know much about the film, I highly recommend it and attach a review I wrote for Smell of Napalm not too long ago.

It’s not an alien thriller, but it’s not exactly your average drama either, Monsters instead blends sci-fi and romance (no, totally unlike The Fifth Element did) in to an extra-terrestrial road trip adventure across Central America.

Comparisons to the recent District 9 are unavoidable, although other than shooting style and alien quarantine zones, the films do address different issues, or rather, different aspects of the same issue – namely life in the aftermath of alien invasion. Perhaps unusually for an ‘alien movie’, the focus isn’t on thrills and blood spills. Director Gareth Edwards isn’t aiming for the jumps and scares elicited from this type of sci fi in the past.

The plot couldn’t be simpler; think a kind of jungle excursion spin on 16 Blocks. A photojournalist, Andrew, is requested by his presumably influential employer to transport his daughter, Samantha, back to the US from within the infected zone. Their journey is inevitably not as smooth running as anticipated and the two are thrown in to an uncertain relationship together.

Monsters is a film of few flaws, but one is that the relationship between Andrew and Samantha seems too forced. Andrew is such an unlikeable jerk from the outset, apparently only concerned by himself and his career. The chance that Samantha would fall for him so readily, especially given that she already has a fiance seems distinctly slim. Their mutual attraction is too rapid and without sufficient development, and whilst their on screen chemistry as the film progresses is almost tangible (unsurprisingly since the actors Whitney Able and Scoot McNairy are married in real life), this is a thorn that sticks sharply from it’s side.

That said, never has this kind of romance been portrayed against such a dramatic and intriguing creative back drop. The ‘infected zone’ in Monsters is a work of genius that totally defies the simplicity of it’s origins: on a studio rig comprised of off the shelf Adobe software and Autodesk 3d Max set up in Edwards’ bedroom.

It might be surprising then that the special effects are actually really good, rivalling much more expensive productions. Admittedly, they are used fairly sparsely, hinting at the enormity of the alien monsters rather than rendering them outright. A tentacle here, an unnatural silhouette there, and so on and so forth. Only in the romantic climax of the film do we see the fruits of Edwards’ labour in their full splendour, a sight I won’t ruin here with words.

The setting in Central America, other than refreshingly exotic, contributes to the alien, unfamiliar theme of Monsters, and the language barrier is used artfully to convey a sense of isolation, and the occasional drop of humour. It’s not a rollercoaster ride by any means, but Monsters will most definitely garner an emotional reaction from you in some way.

Monsters is a road movie of sorts, a trip through the heart of Central America and an exploration of companionship. It should be watched without the preconceptions that usually accompany the genre.

Certificate: 15
Run time: 94 mins
Country of Origin: UK


The Fish Child – an example of a genre

I’ve just watched The Fish Child in order to provide a review for and I found it epitomised something I’ve encountered before in films of this type. They are atmospheric, artistic, very well directed and produced, and yet I struggle with their overarching aim. You see, when you trip to the cinema to see the latest Hollywood blockbuster, you can be sure to some degree of what you’re going to get. It may be shallow, it may be violent, it may be shocking or thrilling, or it may be none of these things, but you will know that it has one goal: to entertain.

The problem I have with films like The Fish Child, and there are many of them, is why am I watching them? What do they want from me?

It is hard to say they aim to entertain; a comedian entertains, a car chase entertains, even a feisty scene between celebs entertains, but frankly, a film in which the protagonist is a teenage lesbian in love with her maid whose father impregnated her as a child, who then gave birth as a very young teen, drowned the baby and left it in a lake, and after all that ends up in a female penitentiary, is not entertaining – it’s fucked up. And I’ve slimmed it down.

So if they’re not entertaining, and they’re not educational (other than from a film making perspective), what is it about them that makes them worth watching? I find it comparable to art. Think of looking at a warped, unpleasant painting. Something disturbing that you definitely wouldn’t want in your living room. It exists as a statement from it’s creator. ‘This is what I was thinking about, this is how I feel, this is what I want you to know I’m conflicted by…’ Art makes some sort of proclamation. You’re looking at it and you can’t find anything to like, and yet you are moved in some way. You feel affected, as if you’ve emotionally developed since experiencing it. The thing is, a painting or a poem can do that to you in a matter of seconds. Is it worth spending two hours watching a film to achieve the same sensation? I don’t know.

Perhaps you haven’t a clue what I’m talking about and you love this kind of film, or maybe you think you know the answer…either way, I’d love to hear opinions in the comments below.

Hot Tub Time Waster

Found another amusing and accurate film blog that’s worth checking out – My Own Worst Critic. I discovered it when I was getting photos for a recent review I did of Hot Tub Time Machine. Micah, the man behind Worst Critic, has also done a review, somewhat less scathing, but arriving at more or less the same conclusion. Anyway, have a read of both.

Mine, over at The Smell of Napalm.

His, My Own Worst Critic.

Hope you like them, don’t bother with the film though!

p.s. I’m aware I’ve been a bit slow updating the ‘last watched movie’ sidebar – it’s a bit of a hassle updating to be honest, but I’ll get on it soon! In the meantime, you can more or less keep track on my ‘last film I watched’ page.

The Bounty Hunter

Hopefully at least a few of you have been keeping an eye on reviews over at The Smell Of Napalm, but if not here’s an extract from my latest of The Bounty Hunter:

The funniest thing about The Bounty Hunter is that two actors as prestigious as Gerard Butler and Jennifer Aniston even accepted roles in it, and even that is more funny peculiar than funny haha. Maybe they didn’t bother reading the script. There are a number of reasons The Bounty Hunter fails; it could be the total lack of chemistry between the main players, it could be the shoddy script or the haphazard plot direction, it could even be the fact that director Andy Tennant has apparently no imagination and no idea what type of movie he’s attempting to make.

Action sequences are as unrefined as to look almost B-movie, shot with no grace or style, the villains are all stereotyped and everyone overacts to the point you feel like shouting “cut!” yourself. Heaps of tepid slapstick and humourless situations are bundled together in a futile effort to derive comedy, but it all falls flat. Romantically the film doesn’t fare any better. It seems the duo argue, fuss and fight scene after scene until even the viewer feels like reaching for a pillow to block it all out. Both the couple are unlikeable and no matter how many times they cuff each other to the bed, intimacy always seems a hundred miles away.

Robin Hood and More

Not blogged for a while and this is a bit of a cheat, but I have been busy! Check out my latest review of Robin Hood over at The Smell Of Napalm.

There’s a tonne of stuff worth taking a look at – great reviews from independent writers, features, competitions etc. There’s also a lot going on behind the scenes. Hoping to get some news updates on to the site and a complete redesign in the not too distant future. (I’m working on it…!)

If you aren’t already, follow us on twitter! And on Facebook.