Directed by: David Gilbank
Starring: Jo Mousley, Sid Akbar Ali, Jaimie Cymbal, Pushpinder Chani, Kevin Curtin, Polly Lister
When a large amount of drug money goes missing, two enforcers - Tariq and Boxy - are given 72 hours by their boss to locate the money and find out who took it. The trouble is, they've just accidentally murdered the culprit, their erstwhile partner, Frankie. Desperate to find out where Frankie stashed the money prior to his murder, they kidnap a medium called Alice, in the hope they can contact Frankie's spirit…
Polterheist, for the most part, is an entertaining supernatural/crime caper/buddy comedy - a mix of genres you don't often come across, which makes it all the more compelling to watch.
Just for a change, we have a British crime drama which isn't set on the streets of London - instead we're up North, in the city of Bradford. This setting gives the film a unique atmosphere - the places about town this is set are very bleak and rundown. You get the feeling that the local drug trade has exploited or strip-mined the local populace. It feels like an industry which is about to self-implode as there's just nothing and no one else to sell to. No wonder Uday is so pissed with one shipment of cash goes missing.
We find out early on just how nasty Uday can be. Fariq and Boxy have to witness another guy getting beaten to death with a cricket bat and ball. There's a comical nature to seeing the equipment from the most quintessentially British sport being used for thuggish violence. However there is nothing comical about the situation - Fariq may be Uday's nephew but that has only bought him and Boxy 72 hours to come up with the goods.
The trouble is, Fariq and Boxy have already killed Frankie, albeit accidentally. They found out that Frankie had ripped off Uday by collecting from the gang's drug dealers before they showed up. When Frankie refused to tell them, they drowned him. Meanwhile, a local psychic/medium called Alice is making the headlines so they kidnap her and force her to contact the ghost of Frankie. It turns out she's really good at this because Frankie then possesses the body of Alice. Jo Mousley puts in a great performance as Alice/Frankie. As Alice she is a mousy shy and retiring type but as Frankie, she transforms into a hateful foul-mouthed criminal, bitter and twisted over his fate. Mousley is able to convincingly play Frankie with just her voice, expressions and some badly run mascara.
Polterheist does struggle to maintain a steady tone throughout the film. It wants to be a knockabout lighthearted caper movie, like Lock Stock and 2 Smoking Barrels. There are certainly scenes which fit that mold very well, but for the most part I felt the film was perhaps too flint-hearted and cynical to be truly enjoyable. Fariq and Boxy are a bit like Lenny and George from Of Mice and Men - Boxy is a bit simple and prone to violence while Fariq is more duplicitous and callous.
And this is where the film lost me - we're supposed to be rooting for these guys but their actions make it difficult to do so. And the one character who you should be feeliing sympathy for, commits an act even more heinous than murder, destroying any satisfaction in that character coming out on top.
Polterheist is an entertaining crime romp through Bradford with an element of the Supernatural thrown in for good measure. If Guy Ritchie or, dare I say it, Tarantino had set their first film up North, it might have had a similar feel to this as it has the right blend of violence, colourful characters and humour. Unfortunately what it doesn't have is any likeable characters.