Review: Sustain

Directed by David Hastings and co-written with lead actor Brett Dewsbury, a racially motivated attack ends in tragedy, in the aftermath a grieving family try to pick up the shattered pieces of their lives and a brother struggles to find justice. Also starring: Richard Buck, Joshua Sewell, Laura Evenson, Greg Yates, Louise Hewitt, Matthew Kinson and Jay Podmore.

Brotherhood, whether it be by blood or not, is a strong bond and one that inspires persistently protective and caring traits in those that share it, so when Keiran’s (Dewsbury) brother Toby (Sewell) is murdered in a brutal attack, he sees not other choice but to fight back. The film does well to establish the relationship between Toby and Kieran, it’s convincing and touching, strongly building the foundation for what’s to come. It doesn’t take long before Kieran moves from grieving his brother, to seeking out vigilante justice for what was done.

The plot of the film is well chosen, it feeds directly into audiences’ love of revenge stories, just refer to the careers of Bruce Willis, Liam Neeson and Jason Statham, it’s a safe bet for a narrative. The progression of the story feels well done, it’s satisfying to watch Kieran take on the criminals one by one and each in a different way, his methods are also surprisingly slick yet blunt. However, sadly the dialogue doesn’t go so smoothly, it falls into a few of the classic pitfalls of a story such a this, mostly that the interactions with the police are not at all convincing, although this is partially due to wooden performances. There’s also an issue of stating the obvious, it’s the typical police drama repetitiveness, asking a question, answering it, then having the person repeat the answer, it makes an unfair assumption that the audience needs it spoon fed to them, when it’s not complicated enough for that. The music also doesn’t help with such difficulties as it rarely reflects the tone of the situation, in the scene of Toby’s family discovering his death, the score is too simple and soft, reflecting more of a romantic moment than grief and shock. It’s a shame that the score isn’t used to really strengthen the tone of the film, it has rather strong emotions running through it, but they’re undercut by that missing piece.

Dewsbury does a great job with the role, he has those dual sides of being the caring, generous brother and being dark enough to seek vigilante justice. There are a couple of moments that require a deeper emotion where he waivers slightly but that doesn’t change that he gives a solid performance overall. Similarly, despite filling a rather stereotypical role of the arrogant, bigoted criminal, Buck more than does enough to make himself a detestable enough figure for you to adamantly wish for his demise which fuels the story. It’s a shame that we don’t get to see more of Sewell as Toby, his short-lived role shows off some real talent which hopefully will get more time to shine in future projects.

Despite that the film chose for its plot to begin with a racially motivated attack, the consequences and deeper conversation that a crime like that requires, is something that the film doesn’t attempt to explore. It would have been really fantastic to see the film tackle racism in the UK, its effect and how little is done to help those who experience it but there’s no attempt to do as such. It’s also an unfortunate contradiction to centre a film around a racist attack against a black man but to have every other lead character played by white actors, it strongly adds to the film’s reluctance to discuss the issue in a sufficient way. Sadly, in the end it simply makes it an unnecessary addition as the film is a story of revenge not racism, Toby’s character could have been attacked for a number of different reasons and it would have made no real impact on the plot.  

As a vigilante justice or revenge story, Sustain does a great job but it’s held back by somewhat clumsy writing and resists the urge to wade into darker territory which could have kicked things up a notch, which is fairly surprising given that Hastings’ background includes several horror projects. Despite some very solid performances, the events are somewhat predictable and it’s disappointing that they chose to include a story of a race crime, without ever really taking any time to explore the complexity of it, rather using it as a plot point and motivation for its lead. There’s a good foundation but everything didn’t quite come together to get it where it needed to go.

Verdict: ✯✯| 6/10

You can check out the trailer below!

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