Developed from a short film that director Robert Osman had made as a film student, HARD TIDE details a short window in the life of small-time drug dealer Jake (Nathanael Wiseman).
Having just ripped off a rival crook for a bag full of narcotics, on the request of his criminal kingpin dad Gaz (Ralph Brown), Jake wants out of this dangerous lifestyle. Not least of all because he's aware he's incurred the wrath of a dangerous hood called Flowers (Mem Ferda) - a big burly fella who runs a local florist shop as a front for his unlawful activities, and who Jake describes as being "a psycho".
Gaz is not happy with Jake's decision to quit the business but, facing problems of his own via an impending prosecution, he advises his son to at least find himself a good woman he can settle down with.
Jake does have a potential female in mind: pretty chiropodist Kim (Katarina Gellin). She seems equally keen, and it's handy that her best pal is dating Jake's flatmate - and literal partner in crime - Alfie (Oliver Stark).
Alfie is eager to embrace the criminal lifestyle, attempting to persuade Jake that if they accepted Flowers' rumoured proposal to work for him, they could soon be rich. But Jake has had enough.
And then the curveball comes.
One afternoon, Jake happens across eight-year-old Jade (Alexandra Newick), playing on the roof of a garage while dressed in a superhero costume. Fearing she's about to fall to her death, he climbs up onto the roof and befriends her. It transpires that her mum is dead and she now lives in squalor with her pisshead father (Grant Davis).
Despite an early altercation with the dad, Jake spends the day with Jade and eventually agrees to walk her home. Upon arrival at her house, the pair of them are unable to awaken the father from his drunken slumber. When he does finally come to, he attacks Jake; the ensuing struggle ends in the dad's accidental death.
Jake suddenly finds himself with an orphaned child who's keen to follow him everywhere. He feels an obligation to look after her, but his world is an increasingly violent one. With Flowers on his trail and Alfie looking increasingly likely to betray their friendship, can he possibly "do the right thing" by himself and Jade, as he keeps saying he wants to?
HARD TIDE is co-directed by Osman and lead actor Wiseman. They also penned the script together. It's a sincere film, filled with honest performances and gritty, authentic-sounding dialogue. There's plenty of earthy humour laced within the drama, but also a pleasing lack of overt sentimentality. The pacing is agreeable throughout.
Performances are generally very good. Newick is excellent as the personification of innocence lost. Wiseman clearly enjoys his role and is a likeable rogue; even though his early hard-man persona is hard to swallow (he looks a little too much like a young Steve Coogan for that to work). He's more convincing when that act drops later into proceedings. Ferda makes a formidably psychotic nemesis, while Stark plays the weasel with persuasive slime.
The unfussy camerawork allows the drama to take centre-stage, though it does manage to capture a truly gritty side of its Margate backdrop.
A couple of plot points do let the side down. One is the social worker (Beverley Hills) who pops into Jade's life on occasion and becomes an unlikely ally to Jake. This doesn't really work and is at loggerheads with an otherwise largely plausible storyline. Another is the underused inclusion of Jake's gangster dad. His role in the film amounts to little more than an afterthought.
Still, it all gets suitably tense as the walls come closing in around Jake and his bond towards Jade becomes ever-more clear.
HARD TIDE comes to UK DVD uncut courtesy of Metrodome. The film's 2.35:1 aspect ratio is correctly represented and given the 16x9 treatment. The picture is good for the most part, boasting true colours and stable blacks. There are couple of darker scenes which look washed out in comparison to the rest of the act, and a couple of others where images are blown out by sunlight, but I suspect these were filmed on a different camera. In the main, the picture is crisp, clean and vibrant.
English audio comes in a well-balanced, problem-free 2.0 mix.
The disc opens to trailers for PLEASURE ISLAND, WE ARE MONSTER and HYENA.
From there, we get an animated main menu page. A static scene selection option affords access to HARD TIDE via 12 chapters.
Bonus features begin with an audio commentary track from Osman and Wiseman. It's a good track, filled with lots of behind-the-scenes information such as more on the development from a short to a feature, the nature of the more experienced cast members as they came to the project, trashing Osman's parents' home for a key scene, acquiring a clip from "The Jeremy Kyle Show" from ITV, the choreography of the violent scenes, how the natural lighting of Margate's arcades helped with the film's look and much, much more. A mixture of friendly laughter and mutual respect make for a very affable chat track.
Happily, the original 11-minute short - "My Hero" - is also featured. It also stars Wiseman and Newick, and is essentially an earlier version of the first ten minutes from the feature film. It's more lo-fi and the supporting players are different, but the concept is the same. Wiseman's character is more laddish and less thuggish here: he's more convincing as a result.
21 minutes worth of interviews with Osman, Wiseman and Gellin cover a lot of the same ground as the commentary, including how Wiseman was so impressed with the above short that he took Osman to TGI Fridays, got him drunk and helped develop the feature film. LONDON TO BRIGHTON and NIL BY MOUTH are cited as influences, unsurprisingly, while we also learn that Jake's character grew up in care - something I missed in the film - which helps explain his affinity to Jade. Wiseman earns kudos for his cool Sonic Youth T-shirt during this featurette, too.
A 3-minute promo video for Mike Righteous's ambient rap song "When I Fall", featured in the film, is also proffered.
Next we get a plethora of cast and crew interviews shot at the Raindance Film Festival. As well as those interviewed in the above featurette, we also get titbits from the likes of Ferda and Stark - oh, and Wiseman with a beard. These make for a solid further 37 minutes worth of extras.
HARD TIDE is worthy addition to the contemporary British crime genre, and gets a great DVD release from Metrodome.
I'd be surprised if we don't hear a lot more from Osman and Wiseman, either as a pairing or individually, in the future.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Metrodome|
|see main review|