October 17, 2018

Film review: Plastic – where the love of other people’s money can get you

Plastic claims to be based on an ‘unbelievable true story’. That is true as the most believable part of its 102 minutes is the inconvenient dying of an Apple iphone battery. Otherwise the film is a litany of events that veer between various degrees of unlikely. That the filmmakers own an iPhone I have no doubt. That they have been any nearer gangsters than the cinema is less obvious.

Screen Shot 2014 04 28 at 17 23 45

A group of young thieves in London are running a credit card racket between lessons at their college and shifts at the local petrol station. Think The Bling Ring, but in England, so a lot less bling and a lot more flogging iPod stations and stolen jeans. Their criminal success is based on other people’s plastic and they think they have the sophisticated scam sorted. Rather than merely stealing credit cards and using them willy-nilly, they hack into their victims’ emails and make sure they follow the same spending patterns. They appear to be the good kind of thieves that filmmakers love, the sort that are handsome and chipper and make sure they hand their homework in on time.

The trouble is they also indulge in a bit of blackmail, and aren’t averse to smashing car windows or thumping people to get their point across. And as their point is usually give us your money/credit cards/stuff they end up with lots of things that aren’t – strictly speaking – theirs, in a manner that is no longer – strictly speaking – loveable.

Things go swimmingly for our young crooks, who include Alfie Allen, Ed Speelers until the owner of one of the iPads they steal remembers to switch on the Find iPhone app, which much to the surprise of the gang, leads him straight to their door. Unfortunately Marcel doesn’t just ask for it back and call it quits. Instead he asks them to work for him. And as he is even more of a baddie than they are, with heavies and guns and what have you, our boys can’t say no. Or at least they could, but not if they want to remain good-looking or alive.

So starts a film that wants to be an Oceans-style caper, and even relocates to Miami partway through for reasons that are not entirely sensible. But that is one of the least of the hard-to-believe situations that occur, as the boys try and earn the money that they believe will get Marcel off their backs. Why they believe what a violent gangster says is not clear, but again, that is the one of the least of the hard-to-believe situations that occur.

One of the issues is with the casting. The young actors just look to young. That’s hardly a fault per se but it makes it hard to believe many of the situations. Convoluted pretendings-to-be-other-people might work for Clooney and Pitt, but no one is going to buy that these kids are anything than what they are. Young wannabes. There is a feeling of a high-class film school project, as though one of the students has a rich father who has invested far more than is sensible in his son’s graduation reel.

Plastic is an experiment in wish-fulfilment, and though it is hard to see who would have those sort of wishes, it is possible to see that it will be popular. It makes little sense, and logic goes out of the window well before they somehow kit out a private plane in the colours of an oil-rich state and set about pretending to be Middle Eastern dignitaries. But it embraces the popular guns and easy-money tropes and has some unexpected twists in the narrative.Just don’t use it as a blueprint to becoming a criminal mastermind.

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