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July 19, 2013

Movie Review: Tower Block (2012, Blu-ray)

Review By: Rob Sibley

Shout Factory has brought us a nice little treat from across the pond. That flick is “Tower Block”, the flick is a lean, mean and vicious machine. Directed with a break neck pace by first time filmmakers James Nunn & Ronnie Thompson. This little flick was written by James Moran who's a veteran of British television. He's written episodes for everything from Doctor Who, Torchwood & Primeval. Unlike those series that were heavy on the syfy, this film is set firmly in reality. If anything the film is more akin to Moran's first writing credit, the criminally underrated horror/comedy “Severance”. Tower Block isn't a horror film at all but the film features a tight script and breathless suspense. Moran even injects a bit of humor here and there to lighten things up a bit. The flick falls in line with other siege movies, Assault on Precinct 13 being one of the biggest influences.

Even the brief opening text echoes Precinct 13 while informing you of the history of tower blocks. “The Tower Block was first built for affordable living after the world war. Communities welcomed them as their excellent views made them popular places to live. They deteriorated and became a breeding ground for crime and violence. Re-developers took over, knocking them down. However, it's not easy moving out existing tenants. Serenity House awaits demolition. The top floor residents are the final people left to be rehoused.”. The films tone is set right from the start as a young man runs for his life, being chased by two hooded thugs. He runs into the Serenity Tower Block and bangs on doors, only to be ignored by the tenants. As they listen behind locked doors to the sounds of the teen being beat to death. This scene sadly has to much resemblance to reality where people often turn a blind eye to the events unfolding around them.

One kind hearted individual Becky (Sheridan Smith) calls the cops (she's put on hold). With no help from the law Becky tries to stop the attackers but is quickly assaulted herself. From there we cut to one of the more stylish opening credits sequences reminiscent of an opening to a David Fyncher film. We are then introduced to Detective DC Devlin (Stephen Cree, 300: Rise of an Empire). He has zero luck as each tenant he's spoken to haven't seen a thing. We skip ahead three months where Serenity House is close to demolition, we also are introduced to a host of colorful characters.

Amy's (Loui Batley) relationship with a fella Ormand (Jordan Long) is on the skids. Daniel (Harry McEntire) is a computer game nerd who'd rather play Battlefield 3 online then go outside. He's taken care of by his worrisome mother Carol (Julie Graham). We also have a rather neglectful mother, a couple of drug dealers and the buildings residential thug and runner of a protection racket Kurtis (Jack O'Connell). Everything is business as usual for the residents until a sniper open fires on the building. Carnage ins sues and the survivors of the initial wave of gunfire huddle into the hallway to figure out who's the shooter and better yet how do they escape?

What a refreshing cup o tea this flick was (Pardon the obnoxious British pun). Going into the film I was expecting your typical low budget British tower block is harassed by a group of hoods type of flick. What I got was a sleek, uncompromising and violent little white knuckle pot boiler. It's truly a film where you have no clue what's going to happen next or who the next person to get a bullet between the eyes will be. The film doesn't B.S. Around with pointless melodrama or subplots. It merely sticks with the tenants and the terrifying circumstances that they are involved in.

The film is also packed with a nice bit of social commentary. Tower Blocks seem to be all the rage these days for settings for British flicks. Everything from the excellent Attack The Block to Harry Brown to somewhat lesser flicks such as the missed opportunity which was “The Veteran”. Tower Block despite being set strickly in one location for most of the running time is never boring. It manages to keep the suspense steady for it's 90 minute running time. 

This is really the film that the Assault on Precinct 13 remake wished it could have been. I know I keep name dropping the Carpenter classic, but in no-way did this film crib or ripoff that film. But it features the same breathless suspense and sense of dread that I felt the first time I saw Precinct. Also special mention should go out to composer Owen Morris for his dead on synth score.

Shout Factory brings Tower Block to Blu-ray in an outstanding 2.35:1 1080P AVC encoded transfer. The film was shot on digital with a heavily desaturated look but that doesn't effect the fine detail and realistic skin tones. Night sequences look strong with no nasty digital crush and for the most part it's a crystal clear transfer.

DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 does an excellent job at immersing you in the sheer intensity of the action. The track does an excellent job of showing of the films phenomenal sound design.

Extra's wise we get treated to a nice commentary track from writer James Moran. Moran has a enjoyable self deprecating sense of humor and gives plenty of information regarding the production. Well worth a listen if you enjoyed the film. Last up is a short but sweet 6 minute making of feature which features your typical fly on the wall style interviews.

This is 90 minutes of you're time well spent, do yourself a favor and be sure to check out this soon to be cult flick out! With a strong audio/video presentation from Shout! Factory this film comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

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