(A.k.a. THE TAKING)
Potty-mouthed Bex (Victoria Smurfit) hated her last job so much that she was easily persuaded by long-time pal Dawn (Joanne Mitchell) to leave secure employment and join her working on her indoor market cafe stall.
The girls have their eyes on a vacant shop unit that has come on the market, certain that if they could get a loan to help get them started, their business could truly thrive. But times are hard. This is Britain, 2015, and the nation is caught in a state of austerity-cum-recession. No-one is forthcoming with their financial backing, least of all the girls' bank - though this is partially due to their botched business presentation.
Enter Jeremy (Jonathan Slinger), a rather geeky and timid-looking loan shark who evidently takes a shine to single mum Dawn. Fancying a break from a life that consists of struggling to make ends meet, caring for her autistic son and fending off her overbearing mother (Rula Lenska), Dawn ignores Bex's taunts and accepts Jeremy's proposition of a date.
The upshot of this is that she returns with a promise of the £10,000.00 they need to secure their coveted shop grounds. Proceeding to view the place with Jeremy in tow, the girls are understandably excited ... until he reveals he wants forty monthly repayments of £1,000.00 in return. Alas, backing out of a deal with Jeremy isn't as easy as telling him to go and fuck himself (though they do try this approach), as he turns out to be somewhat psychotic.
Worse still, he has remorseless thug Si (Adam Fogerty) as his henchman - and a series of shockingly violent vignettes earlier in the film have already revealed to us what he's capable of.
Before long Bex's boyfriend Liam (Bran O'Brien) has been brutalised, she's had her face slashed and Dawn is fearing for the safety of her family. In a working class world where the last thing you do is call on the police for help with your troubles, these girls can do but one thing ... fight back.
Directed by 'Emmerdale' actor Dominic Brunt from a script by Paul Roundell (a veteran writer for the farm-bound soap), the film also stars as least one face familiar to those who watch the show: Mitchell.
But fear not, this isn't 'Emmerdale'-goes-horror. This is a gritty flick that strives for authenticity, from its guttermouth language to its unflinching depictions of poverty, misery and violence. If it does have any stylistic affinities to the above, it's that each scene feels short and snappy - which affords proceedings the hasty pacing of a soap opera.
Beyond that, the action is as often as brutal and apologetic as it is fast-moving. You certainly wouldn't catch Si doing what he does here, at 7pm on ITV. Horror fans may bemoan the fact, however, that the violence of the early scenes - though unsettling - is never truly graphic. To those people, I say hang around: the final act is righteously gory. So much so, that it almost seems cartoonish in comparison to the misery-chasing grittiness of the preceding 70 minutes or so.
Performances are generally very good, with the three leads taking top honours. Slinger is particularly slimy; Smurfit is convincingly abrasive. Lenska seems a little off-kilter, as if she's not really trying. Look out for likeable INBRED co-star Mark Rathbone in a small role too; a canny link to Brunt's extracurricular activities.
Bookending the film with two ill-fitting pop songs doesn't harm proceedings too badly (I get their lyrical sentiments; I don't think they were necessary). The unrelentingly downbeat tone - despite some witty dialogue, mainly from the amusingly coarse Smurfit - may put some viewers off.
Keep watching after the end credits too for an amusing bit of stop-motion animation which reveals the fate of one key character.
BAIT (poor title, but arguably better than its original title - THE TAKING) was provided to us on a screener disc from Metrodome which presented the film uncensored and in its original 16x9 widescreen ratio.
It looked good, with strong colours and sharp detail. Some over-exposure in brighter scenes appears to be inherent of how the film was shot rather than any flaw in the transfer. The film does have a cheap look at times, while looking surprisingly accomplished and cinematic at others.
English stereo audio was reliable and consistent throughout.
BAIT is a brisk, absorbing foray into a Hell created from the dire state of Britain under the new Tory rule. It's bleak, but remains highly watchable throughout thanks to sterling performances and an unflagging pace which ensures viewers will want to stick around for the ultraviolent payoff despite probably seeing it coming from a mile off.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Metrodome|
|Region 2 - PAL|
|see main review|