Plastic: Film Review

Cinema Management Group
Ocean's Five.

Shallow, flashy British crime caper relies on the charms of an attractive young cast, including "Games of Thrones" regular Alfie Allen and "Downton Abbey" co-star Ed Speleers.

LONDON – All champagne and strippers, conspicuous consumption and witless machismo, Plastic is a contemporary British heist movie that already feels dated, as if it were made before the bubble burst on Guy Ritchie’s comic book gangster voyeurism. Director Julian Gilbey earned broad acclaim for his handsome Scotland-set kidnap thriller A Lonely Place to Die in 2011, but his fifth feature is a much more cliched affair that seems to be entirely composed of half-remembered quotes from other, smarter, better movies.

An attractive young cast led by Downton Abbey regular Ed Speleers and Game of Thrones co-star Alfie Allen should help fill seats when Plastic opens in Britain and Ireland this week, boosted by the distribution and marketing muscle of Paramount. But overseas returns seem far from secure for this cheap-looking British twist on the Ocean’s Eleven formula.

Smooth-talking Conan O’Brien-like Sam (Speleers) is an entrepreneurial London college student who runs a four-man business empire of youthful con artists specializing in buying and selling luxury goods with stolen credit cards. Their crimes are mostly peaceful and victimless, until the reckless behavior of arrogant Yatesey (Allen) puts the gang on a violent collision course with ruthless Euro-gangster Marcel (Thomas Kretschmann). Forced into a Faustian pact with Marcel, Sam and his team urgently need to come up with £2 million ($3.4 million) or face imminent liquidation.

Meanwhile, Sam has been trying to secure a date with Frankie (Emma Rigby), a striking blonde beauty who just happens to work for a big credit card company. Recruiting Frankie to a life of crime with laughable ease, the gang embark on their most audacious score to date, flying out en masse to a glitzy Miami hotel for a sting operation targeting big spenders. When Yatesey’s volatile misbehavior again sabotages this plan, the scheme is suddenly reworked into a transatlantic jewel heist involving private jets, fake Middle Eastern princes, hotel shoot-outs and lethal betrayals. At this point, the script tips over from implausible adolescent fantasy into preposterous, jarringly illogical farce.

Plastic makes a token bid at contemporary social comment, with Sam and his team claiming the current economic recession as justification for their get-rich-quick scams. But otherwise, the script is woefully devoid of psychological or political context. Likewise the thinly sketched protagonists, who appear to have no family, no private life, no interests at all outside this oddly mismatched gang. They are surrounded by even more cartoonish villains, swarthy hoodlums and monosyllabic mobsters steeped in B-movie cliche but with no hint of redeeming, Tarantino-esque irony. One of the crime bosses is simply called Mr X. Yes, it’s that lazy.

Most damningly, the main characters are all such uniformly unlikable, bone-headed, sexist jerks that it is hard to feel emotionally engaged long enough to follow their increasingly absurd antics. The final heist sequence is painfully contrived, relying on comically incompetent high-end jewelers who never stop to question why they are handing over a fortune in diamonds to a gang of 20-year-olds in bad wigs. If the film-makers intended this cautionary thriller to be a morality tale, they forgot to add any moral component.

Plastic claims to be based on a true story, a boast that feels evermore fanciful as the clumsy plot unravels. But no matter, because this film’s thin charms lie not in its authenticity but in its zippy energy, good-looking cast and mild sprinkling of action. Adolescent males, Anglophile pop-culture geeks and hard-core Game of Thrones fans may be sucked into theaters by the glitzy promise of glamorous bad-boy antics. But afterward, like several of the characters here, they may leave feeling conned and cheated.

Production company: Gateway Films

Producers: Alessandro Forte, Chris Howard, Frank Mannion, Daniel Toland

Cast: Ed Speleers, Will Poulter, Alfie Allen, Emma Rigby, Sebastian De Souza, Thomas Kretschmann

Director: Julian Gilbey

Writers: Julian Gilbey, Will Gilbey, Chris Howard

Cinematographer: Peter Wignall

Editors: Julian Gilbey, Will Gilbey

Music: Chad Hobson

Sales company: Meridian Films

Rated 15 (U.K.), 102 minutes