Directed by Richard Parry, starring Wil Johnson, Orlessa Edwards, Frank Harper, Stuart Laing, Mark Letheren, Nicola Stapleton, Amelia Curtis and Robbie Gee.
When 'Trainspotting' came along in 1996 it inspired the type of zeitgeist-tapping phenomenon that only emerges once in a decade or so. A frenetic fest of drugs, sex, violence, more drugs and, ahem, scatology, Danny Boyle's adaptation of the Irvine Welsh novel was instantly fascinating because we had never really seen its like before. But boy have we seen it since. Imitation after pale imitation have deluged us in the interim and it seems there's no let-up.
Richard Parry's debut feature, 'South West 9' focuses on one of London's most notorious boroughs, Brixton. This is a place that some would call 'dangerous'; others would be more diplomatic and say 'vibrant'. Parry, it seems, sees it as both. SW9 showcases 24 hours in the lives of five different characters. Freddie, the film's narrator, is a street-wise black DJ on the fringes of illegal drug supply; Kat is a wannabe crusty who nips home to her comfortable, middle-class parents when the stench gets too much; Helen is a local gal done good; Essex-boy Jake is a silver-tongued scam merchant and Mitch is Jake's long-time pal and side-kick.
The highly uneven plot revolves around Jake's plans to supply the recreational pharmaceuticals for the rave of all raves, and Helen's attempts to recover a stolen briefcase. Along the way, Mitch accidentally overdoses on LSD, Kat dips in and out of her hippy existence and Freddie, well he just basically talks us through the whole sorry mess.
Although the process of juxtaposing each character strand is getting a little tired now, it provides temporary salvation here. This is not because of any amazing departure from the norm, but because most of the characters here are uniformly cold and un-engaging. So when you tire of observing each character, and believe me you will, the focal point moves from one to another to keep the whole thing ticking over. Ultimately, however, nothing can save this.
To give it its credit, 'South West 9' has some solid performances and shows sporadic visual spark from former documentary-maker Parry. But it's the lack of clear vision that hamstrings the entire effort. Ideas of social idealism, youth culture, drug addiction, nationalism, secularism and corporate mendacity are all thrown into the mix, but it's Parry's inability to take these ideas and develop them into something coherent that ruins the show.
The script isn't good enough, there is a serious lack of focus and what we are left with is five uninteresting characters and one seriously flat ending. SW9 is heavy on drugs, light on drama and, apart from all that, it's five years too late.