Thursday, 14 March 2013

Road to Nowhere - Sightseers


Road to Nowhere

Tina (co-writer Alice Lowe) has led something of a sheltered life.  Now in her thirties and still living at home with her elderly, infirm mother in the Midlands, she’s just entered into a relationship with new boyfriend Chris (co-writer Steve Oram) and he’s determined to show her his world – by taking her on an idyllic caravanning holiday sightseeing around the North of England and showing her all it’s wonders; the Crich Tramway Village, Keswick Pencil Museum, Ribblehead Viaduct.

Unfortunately, Chris has a few anger management issues and a tendency to murder at the drop of a wooly bobble hat anyone who offends his sensibilities from litterbugs to people with nicer caravans.  The complacent Tina’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer - her attempt at talking dirty by telling Chris she’s not wearing knickers is spoiled by her wearing tights, her idea of sexy lingerie is a crotchless knitted bra and pants set – but, when she discovers Chris is a serial killer, she stands by her man first rationalising his murders then playing an active part, the bodies mounting up and their relationship deteriorating as they tour England’s beauty spots.

Smug and nowhere near as funny as it thinks it is, Ben Wheatley’s follow-up to Satanic hit man thriller Kill List is closer to his vastly over-rated gangster debut Down Terrace, a pikey Sopranos by way of Mike Leigh.  Written by its actors (with additional input from Wheatley’s wife and producer Amy Jump), Sightseers has that suffocating, pleased with itself feel you always get with films where the actors have been allowed to “improv” at the expense of the script. 

Chris and Tina are a pair of grotesques; horrific wool-knitted caricatures with comedy Midlands accents rather than actual characters.  They’re not people, they’re a ragbag of actors tics, an escaped sketch show.  One moment Chris is murdering someone because they’re an ill-mannered litterbug, the next he’s smashing in the head of a walker who asks Tina to scoop the poop of the dog he’s stolen for her. There’s no consistency to the characters or to the script, and certainly no development. 

Sure, the brutally comic killings and some of the dialogue are sporadically funny and will make you bark with laughter but the film feels half-baked.  It’s episodic, runs out of steam around the halfway mark and is reduced to ridiculous sight gags (a sad Tina writing a postcard with a giant 4-foot pencil at the Keswick Pencil Museum). It’s nasty without being clever enough to be a satire.  It’s funny without being hilarious, has horror movie elements but never quite convinces.  After the first murder nothing much really happens.  They steal a dog and kill a couple more ciphers.  Sightseers is a film where nothing is at stake and nothing matters.  The protagonists aren’t particularly likeable and the only thing you care less about than them is their victims who are barely even thumbnail sketches.  You don’t give a shit about them, why should you?  Wheatley and his team don’t, why should you? 

Sightseers, like the holiday it depicts, is violent, amusing and ultimately a little boring.

David Watson

Directed by:
Written by:
Produced by:
1 hour 28 minutes
UK Release Date:
Friday 30th November

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