Kicks -- Film Review

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EDINBURGH -- Latest in the long line of movies exploring the dark, dangerous side of sports fandom, "Kicks" works such quiet wonders on a very limited budget that it's a real shame when script deficiencies nearly derail the whole show in the final act.

Third and last in the 'Digital Departures' project -- whereby DV projects were given $250,000 as part of Liverpool's tenure as European Capital of Culture -- this notably good-looking tale of obsession won't make anything like the worldwide impact of the first, Terence Davies' magisterial documentary "Of Time and the City." Yet it does showcase promising new talent on both sides of the camera. The soccer backdrop will boost commercial appeal in certain territories, but this is more of a small-screen-friendly calling-card than anything else.

Freely adapting an unproduced screenplay by Michael Winterbottom collaborator Laurence Coriat (she obtains a "story by" credit), debutante screenwriter Leigh Campbell focusses on the strong friendship that quickly develops between a pair of 20-ish Liverpool lasses, Jasmine (Nichola Burley) and Nicole (Kerrie Hayes).

The soccer-mad duo share a passionate devotion to a particular player, heart-throb Lee (Jamie Doyle) so they are devastated to learn he has been sold to a rival club. Their anger turning to desperation, they improvise a "honey-trap" that leads to their idol becoming their captive in a dingy riverside hideout.

Spanish cinematographer Eduard Grau, whose credits include Albert Serra's ultra-arty "Honor of the Knights (Quixotic)," is the real star of the show here, his high-toned DV visuals making even the scuzziest of Scouse settings seem oddly entrancing.

The soundtrack, featuring several cuts by Liverpool's electro-pop stars Ladytron, further builds a mood of ominous unease, leavened by typically wry Scouse humor, while the two leads skillfully retain our sympathies even as their characters' behavior strays over the line into criminality. Doyle, however, is notably ill-served by some clumsy post-synch dubbing.

Just as Jasmine and Nicole turn out to have little clue how to proceed with their plan once Lee is in their clutches, the movie likewise loses its way during the melodramatic, plausibility-stretching final act.

Venue: Edinburgh Film Festival