Two little crooks team up for a big score. It’s a plot that’s been recycled by everyone from Ida Lupino to Quentin Tarantino. Few, however, have thought of fitting those details into a light-hearted, roadside Gogardian musical. Advance promising first-time filmmaker Malachi Smyth. After writing a workable script with a small cast and only a few locations, writer Jennifer Johnson’s son Smyth contacted Beast and Emma star Johnny Flynn. Flynn, who has several albums to his name and whose performance as David Bowie was the best thing about Stardust, wrote all the songs, including Europop and Chanson, the pastiche tunes played on the radio.
He also stars as Mikey, a low-ranking criminal who made a deal with big players. “Until now we were nothing,” he tells Troy (Will Poulter). Trouble is, Troy isn’t even a dummie – he’s “been the dummies’ gofer.” A smart guy, who can calculate the sums relating to the titular company and who ponders the multiple meanings of the word “score”, he also seems totally unsuited to the life of a hoodlum. Worse still, while hiding in a roadside cafe, Troy meets Gloria (Naomi Ackie, soon to be seen as Whitney Houston in I Wanna Dance with Somebody). There’s an immediate connection, some start singing and – boom – no way Troy could be considered a career criminal.
The triumvirate of actors at the heart of the film is so committed and so good. The songs are liked. The script is clever. There is a charming Aristilian intimacy around the fixed location.
Conversely, there are too many ideas and ambitions here to fit into a low-budget picture. The scope of Smyth’s imagination, Flynn’s performances and compositions call for a larger canvas and, well, a chorus line or orchestra. A remarkable achievement, nonetheless.