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Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 2 out of 5

THERE’S a dubious morality surrounding the events of Clubbed, a supposedly true story based on the autobiographical novel Watch My Back by author Geoff Thompson.

On the one hand, it seeks to empower the individual by overcoming fear (especially of violence), but on the other it seems to celebrate brutality and even involves one character getting away with murder (albeit with mitigating circumstances, so we’re told).

It’s the mid-1980s and Danny (Mel Raido) is a factory floor-sweeper who finds his life falling apart – stuck in a job he doesn’t want, divorced and struggling to be a good father to his kids. Matters come to a head when he is beaten up in front of his daughters by a thug during a random act of violence.

Desperate and facing the abyss, Danny resolves to fight back and begins to hang out with a group of nightclub doormen who take him in and teach him to stand his ground.

But as he’s drawn deeper into their world, gradually finding a new self-respect, he finds himself caught between Louis (Colin Salmon), the tough but fair-minded leader of the group, and a local gangland boss, whose involvement in the nightclub soon brings violent consequences for everyone concerned.

Early on, Neil Thompson’s film succeeds in creating an air of desperation and impending violence around every corner. But it doesn’t always seem to know whether to stick with the grittiness of British films such as Get Carter or The Long Good Friday, or aim for the gloss of the New York gangster scene. There’s also more than a passing nod to the gangster style of Guy Ritchie.

And it’s this uneven tone that sits uncomfortably with the themes that Clubbed is attempting to explore, as well as the expletive heavy script that quickly becomes a turn-off.

Initially, audiences can find a certain sympathy with Danny’s plight and his deterioration is well-handled by Raido (who recently shone in TV’s He Kills Coppers). But as he becomes immersed in the nightclub world and begins to hit back, there’s a growing suspicion that the violence he once feared is now a means to an end for him.

And as the violence escalates, so too does the film’s appeal. A crucifixion scene, in particular, is dwelt upon a little too long, while its aftermath lands Clubbed in the moral quagmire, prompting inevitable questions about how much of the story is true and how complicit the author was in certain events that are depicted.

Like so many films that claim to condemn violence, Clubbed ends up feeling like the type of experience that’s more likely to appeal to the very people it’s trying to shame. Far from being an inspiring tale, it’s actually quite a dispiriting one.

Certificate: 18
Running time: 90mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: May 4, 2009