MRR Review: "Wasteland"

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Harvey Miller (Luke Treadaway) is under arrest and facing interrogation. He denies everything, and agrees to tell his version of the events. We see the clever planning of the failed robbery, the shocking twist, the outcome driven by retribution.
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Movie Review: "Wasteland"

Rating: Not Rated
Length: 108 minutes
Release Date: July 26, 2013
Directed by: Rowan Athale
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Director Rowan Athale's first feature film, "Wasteland," received its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. Although the plot seems like an attempt at a Guy Ritchie flick, "Wasteland" sets itself apart from other movies in the genre of British heist films. A fresh cast and the intimacy among the characters make this movie unique.

The movie starts with twenty-two-year-old Harvey Miller (Luke Treadway), being picked up by authorities for an altercation he had with a man who is now in the hospital. Detective Inspector West, played by Timothy Spall of "Harry Potter," is questioning a beaten and bloodied Harvey Miller about the events that transpired. Miller asks what the recording machine in the interrogation room is for, and West responds that it is for whoever is listening. From here, the story begins. 

As Miller starts to recount the events to West, the film flashes back to six weeks earlier. The audience sees Miller being released after a yearlong prison stint he had served for a drug charge. The Yorkshire setting casts a heavy gloom over each scene as Miller heads to the pub for a reunion with his best friends. Miller meets up with smart-mouthed Dempsey, played by Iwan Rheon of "Game of Thrones"; Dodd, a pub regular played by Matthew Lewis of the "Harry Potter" movies; and Charlie, a meek character played by Gerard Kearns. At the pub, Harvey runs into his old girlfriend, and the sparks are still alive. 

Miller tells his friends about a man he met in prison who is opening a coffee shop in Amsterdam and has asked Miller to become his partner. Miller then reveals his plan to obtain the required investment funds by robbing a local gentlemen's club owned by a thug named Steven Roper (Neil Maskell). Roper, as it happens, is the man who caused Miller's unjust imprisonment. With few career prospects, Miller's friends agree to take part in Miller's heist. Shortly after, Charlie is brutally attacked by Roper and his cronies and ends up being hospitalized.

The loyalty and brotherly relationship shared by Harvey Miller and his friends in the damp Yorkshire setting, together the actors' wonderful performances, make "Wasteland" stand out from other heist films. Another aspect of the film that audiences will resonate with is the characters' ultimate goals. Miller's chance at respectable employment and the relationship with his great love were stolen by Roper when Miller was imprisoned. His friends face the bleak job market front Leeds has to offer. They want to invest in a coffee shop that will give them a stable future. They don't want to be notorious men. They just want a decent future and a little justice along the way. 

Athale's great directing skills shine through as the film falls into a 1980s Rocky Balboa-style sequence of scenes showing the boys training and planning for the big heist. The next scenes depict how it will cause them to leave their families and the only home they know. This movie has heart, and Athale does a wonderful job at bringing so many elements together in one film. 

Everything viewers see unfold is part of the tale being recounted by Harvey Miller to Detective Inspector West. Harvey tells about the plot he and his friends devised. He tells the detective about their attempt to rob Roper's business and how things went terribly awry, leading to Roper being hospitalized and Miller to be sitting at the station with the detective inspector. It seems like things are wrapping up. West thinks he has the story. However, that is not the case.

Detective Inspector West gets a call saying the police recovered the stolen money from Roper's business, which seems impossible because Miller's robbery attempt failed. Inconceivably, Roper had already been robbed before Miller and his friends attempted their heist. Because holding Harvey Miller would be an embarrassment to the police when the robber was actually someone else, the detective inspector allows Miller to leave.

After Miller is gone, West notices the recording machine Miller asked about earlier. He rewinds the cassette in the machine and listens. The recording is not the story the detective inspector had just listened to in that room. Even the incredible tale Miller leaves on the recorder for the detective inspector is not the end of the story. There's yet another little twist in store.

"Wasteland," through the use of good directing and great acting, manages to pull together different methods of story-telling to make a unique film that stands out in a well-seasoned genre. 

Rated 3 out of 5