J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Plastic: I’m Sorry Sir, Your Film Has Been Declined

Most of us are willing to risk facing death and dismemberment, but the prospect having our identity and credit cards stolen scares the willies out of us. Yet, that is exactly what this motley band of protagonists does. To be fair, some members of the crew are better than others in Julian Gilbey’s Plastic (trailer here), which opens this Friday.

Sam and his circle are some of the sort of disgustingly fortunate college students who always seem to have nice clothes and the latest tech toys. Somebody else always pays for them. How they stay in school is a bit of a mystery, but the source of their funds is not. He runs a small gang of credit card thieves. They are not run of the mill pickpockets. They understand how to steal passwords and build up customer profiles so their spending will not raise red flags. It was all working rather smoothly until Yatesy, the prettyboy jerkweed, and his sidekick Rafa rolled the wrong mark. In this case, wrong means the money man for a ruthless Euro gangster.

Before they know it, all four lads are face to face with the unamused Marcel, who offers them an ultimatum. They can pay him 50,000 pounds restitution every week, or a lump sum of two million. Sam opts for the one-shot deal. Initially, they plan to raise the funds doing what they do best, with the help of Sam’s class crush, Frankie. In addition to her supermodel looks, she also happens to work for a credit card company that done her wrong.

The idea of the fab five scrambling to drain the credit cards of three high rollers in Miami is rather subversively appealing, like a thriller version of Brewster’s Millions. Unfortunately, Yatesy the idiot blows the caper before it properly starts. Instead, the lads fall back on a half-baked jewel heist scheme that should be entirely outside their skill set. Pretending to be employees of an obscenely rich sultan, largely through the help spray-on tanners, Sam and company intend to steal a fabulous collection of colored diamonds from Steve Dawson, a Miami jeweler’s over-ambitious international sales manager.

Frankly, the second half stretches credibility to the breaking point, but at least Gilbey has the good sense to step on the gas and never look back. Pacing is not a problem here, but if you need vaguely likable characters in your thrillers, Plastic comes up empty. Arguably, Frankie is a reasonably decent person and at least Dawson’s hot assistant Beth has the good sense to question his sloppy security practices.

As Marcel and his creepy henchman Tariq, Thomas Krestchmann and Mem Ferda chew all the scenery that is not nailed down, which helps quite a bit. Graham McTavish and Malese Jow also bring some attitude and energy as the marks. For her part, Emma Rigby’s Frankie looks good in a swimsuit. However, all the lads are deadly dull, including Downton Abbey’s Ed Speleers (Jimmy Kent in seasons three through five) straining to be the roguish leading man.

Plastic has its guilty pleasures, but instead of embracing its grubby comparative advantages, it tries to become Raffles or Remington Steele midway through. It is all rather frustrating, because there are definitely B-movie elements that could have worked. Maybe worth a look later down the road, British thriller fans can safely wait for cable or Netflix. For diehard fans of the hip Brit TV cast, it launches on iTunes and opens in select markets this Friday (9/26).

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