(Rowan Athale, 2012)
The central idea in The Rise is an interesting one; for here is a heist film set in a social-realist world. Not any social realist world, either, no: Athale invokes the entirety of the Kitchen sink movement from 1950s/60s British cinema by setting his story in a rundown Northern city (Leeds in this case).
That setting is nicely evoked early on. Red-brick houses tight on claustrophobic streets, working mens clubs, tacky suburban discos and high-rise flats are all captured with grit, atmosphere and a nice eye. Athale is a young director who makes more or less every shot count - this movie is filled with beautifully composed, lovingly lit frames, long and complex tracking shots and clever editing gambits. It is reminiscent of Guy Ritchie in his early work; flashy and ostentatious, but Athale has an eye for poetry that Ritchie never had and there are glimpses of poetic realism here. The character work is good early on too. The protagonists here are young men adrift in a recession-era Britain, dead-end jobs, no prospects, clinging to their friendship as one of the few worthwhile things in their lives.
This is all more or less lost when the heist component gives the movie a populist surge in the final act, and that too is patiently set up. Harvey (Luke Treadaway) has just been released after a year in prison for drug dealing. But Harvey was set up by local kingpin and thug Roper (Neil Maskell) and as revenge, he wants to steal a lot of money from Roper's safe so that he and his three best mates can escape their hometown for a new life running a cafe in Amsterdam. The whole story is told in flashback by a bleeding Harvey in a police interview room to Detective Inspector West (Timothy Spall). That allows Athale to play with perception and expectation as Harvey twists the tale this way and that, and DI West tries to find the truth. And while it's a shame that Athale couldn't sustain the social realism of the early stages of the story (though it could be argued that young men stealing from a working mens club is a neat metaphor for some of the issues around generational conflict in modern England), the last act is undeniable fun. Stylish, pacy and derivative, it's thoroughly crowd-pleasing.