'Jet Trash': Edinburgh Review

JET TRASH - Still 1 _ H 2016
Courtesy of Edinburgh International Film Festival
Substance narrowly trumps style in this likeably lurid tale of hedonists abroad.

Robert Sheehan and Sofia Boutella star in Charles Henri Belleville's Goa-set drama, a U.K.-India co-production world premiering at the Scottish festival.

Paradise is predictably problematic for the protagonists of Jet Trash, a flashily seductive and darkly comic crime-thriller that sidewinds between grimy London and the sun-kissed coasts of Goa. Featuring the fast-rising Sofia Boutella in a prominent supporting role, this sensually shot U.K.-India co-production was by some distance the standout feature to world premiere this year at Edinburgh — home city of director Charles Henri Belleville — and should carve out a respectable career on the festival circuit before turning up on small-screen formats.

In terms of theatrical prospects, it's worth noting that the novel upon which Dan M. Brown and Simon Lewis' screenplay is based — Go (1998), by Lewis — has over the years scored with the back-packing crowd, including translations into German, Swedish and Italian. Finnish audiences, meanwhile, may be drawn by leading domestic star Jasper Paakkonen, whose shaven-headed Buddhist ex-soldier Mike has few lines but plays a decidedly pivotal role in the plot's twisty shenanigans. Indeed, Mike's oddball combination of zen-calm and sudden violence — when sufficiently roused — is the most unconvincing contrivance of the script by Brown and Lewis, which is much stronger when focusing on the central friendship between dope-toking Irish drifter Lee (Robert Sheehan) and street-smart Sol (Osy Ikhile).

Belleville's 62-minute featurette The Inheritance (2007) — he's since made a brace of feature-length documentaries — likewise concentrated on the relationship between two young men, in that instance brothers on a road trip. The journeys here are conducted offscreen, however: the action begins with Lee and Sol savoring the laid-back delights of Goa's shoreline on Christmas Eve in a sequence that nods respectfully back to the daddy of this particular sub-genre, Danny Boyle's The Beach (2000).

Goa, India's smallest state, was ruled by Portugal for nearly half a millennium — only joining the rest of India in 1961. In Brown and Lewis' screenplay, Western visitors are viewed with wry bemusement by the locals, whose curt epithet for the (relatively) rich outsiders provides the film's title — there having been no shortage of movies down the years called Go. Still synonymous worldwide with a particular brand of spiritually sensitive, chilled-out hedonism, Goa looks exotically irresistible here via cinematographer Maja Zamojda's widescreen digital images — all burnished, heightened, saturated colors and deep contrasts.

Slow-motion is strikingly deployed at numerous stages in a picture whose (three!) editors prove less adept at rapid-fire montage: Their string of disorienting altered-state interludes yields diminishing returns. Belleville, meanwhile, brazenly borrows from the playbooks of pop videos and advertising at every juncture, but is sufficiently experienced to place his busy and bold aesthetic gambits at the service of plot and character as much as atmosphere.

Gradually, via extensive and extended flashbacks, we discover what brought Lee and Sol halfway around the world — an innocent but ill-fated entanglement with a sleazy nightclub owner (Craig Parkinson), who operates a profitable people-trafficking sideline, and the latter's sensitive girlfriend Vix (Boutella). Having made an explosive impact as the prosthetic-legged assassin in global hit Kingsman: The Secret Service, the Algerian-French Boutella will springboard towards even greater prominence thanks to the imminent Star Trek Beyond — her character Jaylah is heavily featured in promo materials — and the title role in next year's reboot of The Mummy opposite Tom Cruise.

Here the dancer-actress does emotional rather than physical heavy-lifting, with the enigmatic Vix movingly torn between the volatile father of her daughter and hapless nice-guy Lee. The latter's belated evolution into adulthood and responsibility provides the spine of this violence-punctuated tale, all the way up to an unexpectedly tense stand-off finale. BAFTA-nominated Sheehan — best known for small-screen work such as Channel 4's cult hit Misfits — makes for an unconventional but consistently sympathetic lead, his genially larkish temperament ideal for a script that stirs together its contrasting mood-flavors with persuasive brio.

Venue: Edinburgh Film Festival
Production companies: Aimimage Productions, Bob & Co, SUMS* Film and Media
Cast: Robert Sheehan, Osy Ikhile, Craig Parkinson, Sofia Boutella, Adelayo Adedayo, Jasper Paakkonen, Raj Zutshi
Director: Charles Henri Belleville
Screenwriters: Simon Lewis, Dan M. Brown; based on the novel
Go by Lewis
Producers: Andy Brunskill, Robert Sheehan, Craig Tuohy, Daniel Emmerson
Director of photography: Maja Zamojda
Production designer: Laura Ellis-Cricks
Costume designer: Rebecca Gore
Editors: Richard Graham, Ben Hooton, Immanuel Von Bennigsen, Andy Morrison
Composer: Roger Goula
Casting: Colin Jones
Sales: Cinestaan, Mumbai

Not rated, 85 minutes