J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Alleycats: Blackmailing British Bag-Messengers on Bikes

Dominick Dunne might have compared this dodgy British PM to Gary Condit, but we never would, because such talk would be reckless and potentially libelous. Sadly, the Chandra Levy murder remains unsolved, despite reports to the contrary, whereas the sleazy Yates really did kill the intern he was having an affair with. Rather inconveniently, Danni’s bag-messenger brother filmed it all on his bike helmet cam. Make that her late brother. She will pedal for all she’s worth to bring his killers to justice in Ian Bonhôte’s Alleycats (trailer here), which releases today on VOD.

Naturally, when the dumber-than-a-bag-full-of-hammers Chris realizes he has footage of a prominent MP committing murder, he quickly starts blackmailing the evil sod. Actually, someone else put him up to it—and they still aim to extort their hush money, even when Yates’ French go-to-guy Rives kills Chris in an apparent hit-and-run during one of his illegal Alleycat bike races.

Poor Danni had only been back in the Alleycat racers’ squat for a day before Chris’s death. Realizing one of his squat-mates must be the blackmailer, Danni starts running her own investigation. Soon she teams up with Redman, the distraught father of the missing-presumed dead intern. Soon they are shadowing Yates around London on their bikes, with the reluctant assistance of her ex, Jake.

Alleycats is the sort of film you keep watching and even care about on some minimal level for absolutely no discernable reason. It has utterly no claims to originality and it can only be described as competent in the most basic, rudimentary sense. Yet somehow Bonhôte forces viewers to stick it out. Presumably, this is some sort of witchcraft at work.

Admittedly, Poldark’s Eleanor Tomlinson has real screen presence—grungy yet regal, in this case. John Lynch also adds some dignified angst as the despairing Redman. However, Sam Keeley and Josh Whitehouse are each so colorless as Jake and Chris, respectively, it is hard to tell them apart. Virgile Bramley sneers with admirable conviction as Rives, but he looks and sounds way too conspicuous to be effective as a crooked pol’s fixer. Even more problematically, notwithstanding all his scenery chewing on Spartacus, John Hannah (Four Weddings and a Funeral) just does not look comfortable wallowing in Yates’ villainy.

Alleycat evokes memories of the Condit media firestorm and the Kevin Bacon bike messenger melodrama Quicksilver, both of which are dangerous strategies. If you are looking for some extreme sports-style biking sequences, Alleycats probably under-delivers, but if you want to see Tomlinson with dramatically more tattoo art than her typical Poldark look, this is your best bet. Middling in nearly every way, Alleycats is now available on VOD.

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