Shifty Review: Simply Genius
Daniel Mays continues to wholeheartedly impress me. I tried with all my might not to overtly fawn over him during our interview but I just couldn’t do it. The man is sure to be a legend and judging by the standards that Shifty is setting, the same could be said for Eran Creevy, who is rapidly shaping up to be the next Shane Meadows.
After abruptly leaving four years previously, Chris is returning to his home town to see his best friend: the crack dealing Shifty. As the boys re-unite to attend a party, Chris is drawn into Shifty’s hectic lifestyle for twenty four hours of muggings from obsessive addicts and selling crack to grannies. Chris describes the scene perfectly: “It’s all a bit f*cking surreal,” he says “You just sold crack to Miss Marple and struck a deal with Blazing Squad”. Rather than being characterised by gritty action, what Shifty should be praised for is it’s portrayal of a truly realistic male friendship, juxtaposing undercurrents of unspoken tension with conversely beautiful moments of childlike bonding. There are swings and everything.
Chris, motivated by the changes in his life, attempts to save Shifty from his homemade hell, who maintains a mask of denial, but the telling camerawork reveals a different story. As Shifty stares at his reflection in a cocaine-coated mirror it is clear that only his pride holds him back. Ultimately there has to be a standoff between the pair, but as in all great friendships, it only serves to bring them closer. When it looks like life can’t get much worse, it is all the boys can do to laugh through the pain.
Creevy’s clear intention is to draw focus to the drug scenes, which are graphic and shocking in contrast the violence is played down. Rather than showing too much bloody beating, it creates the same, if not a better effect by stripping away the background noise and replacing it with short, sharp, thundering sounds, conveying a ferocity beyond voice. The script packs the same punch. When Chris inquires about his old crush Loretta Martin and the tell-tale scars on her face Shifty informs him that after being “injected with a cocktail” by her boyfriend, she passed out onto a burning radiator and “the paramedics had to peel her off”. If there’s any story that will scare kids into a straightlaced stupor, that’s it.
In conclusion, Shifty‘s USP is it’s quiet intelligence. Daniel Mays and Riz Ahmed aren’t just playing the characters, they know them and embody them in a superbly accurate way. Thanks to Guy Ritchie, British film has become defined by the plight of the cockney wide boy: there’s always a reliance on knowingly cunning jiggery-pokery, a thumping soundtrack, and Vinnie Jones. But finally a director has come through with the sole purpose of showing the world that we are capable of more than tawdry charicatures. Thanks to Eran Creevy, the Brit Flick can be re-defined as having both a mind and a heart, rather than just bare-knuckle fists.