He Who Dares (2014) – Review

I’ll admit it. I had sore misgivings. I was ready to turn this off the minute I saw Simon Phillips wheezing down a narrow corridor of an Iranian embassy, camera sweeping backwards as he ran towards it, like a chubbier version of the late Lewis Collins, in what was simply the best British thriller based around the actions of the SAS.

Thankfully, this didn’t happen, as surprisingly (albeit refreshingly honest) Mr Phillips seems to know his place. He is not the kind of actor that can readily pull off ‘hero’ status. He’s a bit short, bulges a touch too much in the middle and doesn’t shut up long enough to ever be accused of being silent and brooding. So rather than attempt to take on the mantle of lifesaver, he plumps for life-taker instead, writing himself into this story as the leader of a would-be terrorist group, who kidnap the Prime Minister’s daughter and then decide, in usual infinite terrorist wisdom, to hole up in a car park to make their demands. Given the ludicrous depiction of the armed forces and the police in this feature directed by Phillips’ long-term collaborator Paul Tanter, it is beyond belief that they even had to hide in the first place.

Constraints of budget no doubt dictated a good deal to the production of this piece, which would explain the location for the majority of the film. Templeheart Productions are not known for splashing out a pound when twenty pence would do the job, even if it does mean cutting the odd corner, so finding a largely empty car park for a few days of shooting seemed like a grand idea, I’m sure. Never mind that this becomes a dull and staid chasm of grey concrete ever so quickly.

What is pitched on the dvd case is not exactly what you get here (when is it anything else, however). Emblazoned across the top of the box, it loudly exclaims; “THE RAID MEETS DIE HARD”, as quoted by movie review website heyuguys. Just how much responsibility that particular movie news source wants to take in this regard is questionable, but it does beg the question of whether they were indeed watching the same film as the rest of us.

I think they may have been referring to the similarity in regard to location which would certainly make sense as The Raid took place in a building with many different floors and the police in that film painstakingly travelled up the building to get to their target. But this has got to be where the similarity ends. The Raid’s superlative cinematography, choreography and style completely eclipses what is on display in Tanter’s film and if they were to be compared, Gareth Evans’ work of contemporary fighting art would rightly point and laugh at efforts here. Even mentioning the film in the same sentence is doing The Raid a disservice.This is fighting talk, and Tanter is way out of his depth in this regard.

Ultimately, you get what you pay for and this is an independent microbudget production that gives great value for money. The acting by practically all of the cast is sub-standard, not really surprising given the previous sentence, with only really Phillips given the opportunity to shine, which if we’re honest, he probably does a little too much for the health of the project and he may have needed to edit his presence a little more, allowing for a greater opportunity for the likes of Tom Knight and Ewan Ross.

Several reviewers have inexplicably labelled this as the best British film of the year and you would have to surmise that they have some vested interest in the production, given that there are films like The Borderlands and The Machine in existence. Whilst not a total travesty, I can liken it mostly to that moment that Neo and Trinity burst through into the glare of beautiful sunshine in The Matrix Revolutions, just for a brief second, before plummeting back below the clouds, on a collision course with their futile quarry. If The Borderlands and The Machine are examples of the sunshine of this years’ British Cinema, then He Who Dares is the headlong dash, hurtling back into it’s relentless murky challenge for survival.

Brutal, with a sometimes commendable script, He Who Dares is light on ideas and woefully lacking in acting chops, failing to convince on many levels, not least the unimaginative cinematography and paper thin plot. Try not to be too harsh though. Remember that it was probably made for the price of a pint, two bags of cheese and onion and the odd called-in favour.

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