Review: Brash Young Turks (Naeem Mahmood, 2015, United Kingdom)

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A New Urban Fantasy

Brash Young Turks, although by no means perfect, is a piece of consummate independent direction from Naeem Mahmood, and his co-directing brother Ash Mahmood. Their bombastic presence is noticeable in each of the departments that the film relies on to build its characters with all its braggadocio.

The story loosely follows Mia (Melissa LaTouche), a mixed race teenage girl left to rot in a London care home by her pointedly white mother (who visits Mia, only quickly to leave again to the safety of her ideal nuclear and white family). Mia soon attracts the attention of our main trio, who’ve been formed tight friendships through unwavering loyalty and co-dependence as they grew up. There’s Terrell (Paul Chiedozie), the hard-working one with the plans who wants to settle down when the time is right, Shaz, the powerful seductress/pretty face/femme fatale, and Dave, the heavy-fisted, violence-loving muscle, raising cash through petty crime, wearing his heart on his rolled up, bloodied sleeves. Across the film our focus shifts from the trio, to Mia and her personal dreams and aspirations away from the street life and Terrell, making surprising plot decisions, leaving storylines open-ended and delivering one unit of a heavily stylised, if not always water tightly written, coming of age story.

The film leans on the sense of exuberance in abundance that is the Mahmoods’ hands-on-the-tiller. The art direction, costume design, set design, locations, soundtracking and more besides, all  feel as if they’re pulling towards the same goal; a heightened urban fantasy, a gritty urban thriller/drama film with a druggy dreamlike filter laid over it, heightening senses and turning subtleties into extremities.

There’s a picture-postcard getaway scene, complete with day-glo neon beachwear to accentuate the distance of the calm waves to the crowded and oppressive tube rides and the grind of office-based blandness. The over-the-top attitude touches the comic sense of the film too, allowing it to dip into the slapstick as a ravenously greedy estate agent manager (Annie Cooper) wrestles one of her employees to the ground to illustrate how Python should handle their prey/customers, and into screwball/film-noir territory in quick-cutting party scenes with rapid-fire dialogue, while “loose cannon” Dave silently brews and stares across rooms at a dewey-eyed Terrell, absently giggling with the naïve Mia in an early scene.

 

Of course, bigger isn’t always better, and the film wobbles through its early phase, where it has to construct its base reference points for each key character while barrelling through some soapy life-and-death dialogue in the prologue to the film, truncating the history of our titular brash trio into an expositional trailer for the main bulk of the feature. All of this carefully curated, and definitely flashy and neon surface, might be to the detriment of a staight-forward urban drama, tipping itself over the edge into unbelievability, but Brash Young Turks hurls itself off the cliff immediately, believing in its own “urban fantasy” from the beginning.  In doing this, Brash Young Turks follows its own ideology, one of no-nonsense, go-getter attitudes, pedal-to-the-metal, balls to the wall, no half-steppin’.

Its 90 minute running time breaks down into a tight collage of montages, vignettes and almost standalone scenes as the Mahmood brothers draw from their video production history with Trailblazer, carving a coherent film with empathetic characters that sink into the experience of the film, all cogs chugging and working towards the new Urban Fantasy.

 

 

Written by Peter deGraft-Johnson, 

Editor

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