Written and directed by Samuel Gridley, co-written by lead actor Luke Kaile, an ex-lawyer and his team run an underworld service, providing fake criminals to take on other people’s crimes, but a dangerous new client turns their world upside down. Also starring: Rich Keeble, Rebecca Calienda, Noeleen Comiskey, Cameron Harris, Scott Samain, Blain Neale, Ben Scheck and Angela Peters.
Film is much like anything else in that it’s important to make a good first impression and this film certainly does that, its opening credits are simple but intriguing, with a western style influence that nicely sets the scene before the story really begins. What follows is a criminal story with clear The Usual Suspects style influences but manages to take those themes and tones and bring something new to the table.
It creates a fresh, creative and gripping story, the progression is smoothly flowing and satisfyingly consistent throughout. It starts out with a comedic twist on your classic HR department, with overbearing clients, who want to squeeze every last penny out of your services which is a nice way to ease viewers into its story. It keeps that slight tone of comedy throughout as it delves into the seedier side of things, bringing with it some nicely paced twists and turns, that are unpredictable and all serve to push the story further. The dialogue at times could be sharper and it feels as though there’s a few details skipped over in its latter stages that would have nicely fleshed out its crescendo of crime but the overall quality of the writing is well done and manages to hit familiar notes while feeling new.
Gridley’s direction has a very action-crime-thriller mix, it adds a great amount of movement and energy to the film, especially with it mostly taking place in only a few locations, stopping it from ever feeling stagnant and keeps the forward momentum of the story. It’s supported by some great practical effects work, they keep it rather restrained which allows for a better sense of reality and adds enough violence without going too far. However, it does feel as though the film could have leant more strongly into the dark themes of its story, it misses out on a more brutal edge which could have made it even more satisfying to watch. It plays it slightly too safe and it would have been great to see it take a little more risk to bring a sharpness to it.
It’s undoubtedly an ensemble film and they’ve put together a great mix of actors here, Kaile’s Ryan really brings that sympathetic perspective to guide you through the story and each of them have something to add. Keeble has the spineless partner down, Comiskey hits hard on that villain note with Harris as the ever faithful and sadistic right-hand man, Calienda has a surprising turn that rounds out the story nicely and Neale brings through a lot of energy with a little bit of chaos. Scheck and Samain bring very different characters but both feed into the comic vein of the story.
Criminal Audition is creative, entertaining and a fresh take on the criminal genre while hitting all the familiar notes that audiences love. It has a very British sense of humour and balances that out well with the darker side of its story, it keeps a solid, gripping progression throughout and has a few surprises in store. It’s a really great example of original British independent film and an impressive feature debut from Gridley.