REVIEW: The World We Knew (2020)

dir. Matthew Benjamin Jones and Luke Skinner.

When a heist goes awry an eclectic band of criminals retreat to a countryside rendezvous, informed by their minder Carpenter (Finbar Lynch) they have a rat in their crew. Handing over their guns and awaiting further instructions, they drink, do coke, tell stories and relive past glories, whilst all the while something sinister lurks at the periphery of their vision.

Jones and Skinner’s slick crime caper blends two well-established genre tropes: the job gone wrong and the haunted house. Whilst both might be tired individually here the cocktail creates new flavours, a feat helped in no small part to a crackling script by Jones and co-writer Kirk Lake, brought to life by on-point performances from the grade-A ensemble. Character work is rich and restrained, small moments etching entire lifetimes in just a few lines, from the grandfatherly Barker (Kill List’s Struan Rodger), to ex-boxer Brandon (Johann Myers), club-owner Stoker (Lake) and new-dad Eddie (Alex Wells). Eddie, in particular, is struggling, having killed a cop in the chaos of the job. And then there’s HP (Simon Rhodes), bleeding out upstairs from a gut shot as Carpenter tends to his wounds.

The similarities with Reservoir Dogs (1992) are particularly apparent, though the supernatural element and quintessentially British setting (dilapidated cottage; working-class gangsters) feels more like a Guy Ritchie ghost movie with the restraint of Robert Wise. The spectres- as is the sub-genre’s wont – are also nebulous in their reading: whether these are genuine phantoms or personifications of past guilt is up for debate. The single location too is used to excellent effect, DP Laurens Scott finding grace notes and a visual dynamism within the minimalist space.

Tight and muscular to the end, the real achievement is the emotional momentum Jones and Skinner maintain, even as the plot unfolds along familiar lines. By the time the night is through, one thing’s for sure: in a life of crime nobody gets away clean, or perhaps ever.


Tim Coleman

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