Published on September 4th, 2016 | by Allan Brown2
Level Up Review
UK Release Date: 26 September 2016
Running Time: 84 minutes
Director: Adam Randall
Writers: Adam Randall, Gary Young
Cast: Josh Bowman, Neil Maskell, William Houston, Cameron Jack, Leon Annor, Christina Wolfe, Leila Mimmack, Oliver Jackson, Ben Bailey Smith
Fear, love and survival are the driving themes in director Adam Randall’s high-octane debut feature; Level Up.
Devoid of responsibility whilst idling his days away playing video games with chum and fellow layabout; Joel (Ben Bailey Smith), see’s mid-twenties Londoner Matt (Josh Bowman) at sorts with his partner Anna (Leila Mimmack). But when Matt suddenly finds himself beaten to a pulp and at the mercy of a gang of thugs who invade his home (Neil Maskell), he is instructed to embark on a series of ominous quests and twisted confrontations in a bid to save his abducted girlfriends life.
While Level Up (Trailer) does share some similarities with David Finchers ‘The Game’, the budget is not one of them. Yet, despite costing a meagre £400’000 to make, this first time feature filmmaker, along with an incredible cast and crew, have managed to push through the boundaries of their financial constraints to produce a calibre of film that rivals many of its Hollywood mainstream siblings, giving them a real run for their money.
Actor Josh Bowman leads the charge in what is an exceptional performance, confidently holding the screen on his own for the duration. While his character is on a constant high alert and plagued by fear and anxiety at every turn, Bowman still manages to bring a certain cheeky charm and charisma to the proceedings.
Whether it’s the films neon drenched backstreet karaoke bars akin to Nicolas Winding Refn’s ‘Only God Forgives’, or its stunning tracking shots across Westminster Bridge, each London locality is exquisitely captured by cinematographer Eben Bolter. Even when the film gears up for one of its many tonal shifts, from its Old Boy-esque hallway action set-piece in a lavish upmarket Georgian town house, to its intense abandoned warehouse finale with The Businessman (William Houston) – who seemed to be channelling the foreboding gunslinger in Westworld, ensures the film has a wonderfully rich and engaging backdrop throughout.
a smart and incredibly striking indie thriller, from a bold and exciting new director
It could be argued the film would have benefited if more time was given in the first act to establish and cement the importance of Matt and Anna’s relationship, as the entire premise hinges on that bond. It’s a fundamental plot point as it allows the audience to fully buy into Matt’s state of urgency, panic and motivation, in order to follow these bizarre and life threatening commands without much hesitation or resistance. As a result, there is a slight disconnect – at least in the beginning, buying into the overall narrative and Matt’s plight.
Randall ensures there is an excellent flow to the narrative. Things stay sharp, punchy and incredibly exciting, zipping along at breakneck speed, as we the audience – much like Matt, sprint to keep up.
Capitalising on his incredible cast, whom despite sharing only limited screen time with Bowman, manage to deliver some of the most intense and memorable encounters in the film. In particular, a scene involving no-nonsense drug dealers Calvin (Cameron Jack) and Keon (Leon Annor) that takes place in a rundown high-rise apartment block – looking like something from Trainspotting, takes nail biting intensity and suspense to a whole new level. These golden nuggets of cinematic genius are peppered throughout the films conservative eighty-four minute narrative, each presenting a different overall feel and visual tone to each scene, and it is this impressive variety along with the films pace and subtle humour that is key to its success.
That said, not all scenes quite hit their mark tonally, and or, fall flat for one reason or another, but these are minor gripes in what is otherwise a smart and incredibly striking indie thriller, from a bold and exciting new director.
Summary: Despite it being the Adam Randall’s first feature, this high concept thriller zips along at breakneck speed offering an exceptional lead performance, exquisite visuals and skilfully executed set-pieces to ensure this little indie thriller packs as much a punch as its mainstream rivals.