Alasdair Stuart On Crimefighters, Lo-Fi UK Superhero Film

Here's a piece from Bleeding Cool's chum, young Alasdair Stuart. He's calling it: Tea Shops and Justice: Patrolling the leafy mean streets with the Crimefighters.

York is a nice town, filled with students bars, tea shops, trees and very large, very old churches. York is a dull town, filled with students working dead end jobs, tea shops filled with old people, trees surrounded by hoodies and very large, very old churches that draw tourists to them like flies to honey. York is an angry town, as a steady increase in muggings and violent crime turns the leafy streets into a battlefield. York is home to Ella, Pip and Daisy and they've had enough. Plus they've given up drinking so it's not like there's anything better to do.

Crimefighters is the second movie from MilesTone productions, who also produce the zombie web series Zomblogalypse and like its webby counterpart, it has a very distinctive look. The MilesTone crew love their natural lighting and are smart enough to spend a lot of time getting out of the way of the story.

That really comes into its own here as the unique location combined with the inherently fantastical premise gives it a surprisingly grounded feel. This is the hyper-real world of Kick-Ass minus the hyper, a place where superheroes only know martial arts because one of them did karate as a girl, where costumes are made in the back of a boutique and where evil is always just a snickleway away. Shot in black and white as well, all this combines to make Crimefighters look like a normal day out in York, just with significantly more punching. The basic charm of the city shines through, as does the wildly eccentric mixture of buildings and the end result is sort of a northern Gotham City by way of Spaced.

Which isn't to say that Watts is afraid to pull the trigger on some impressive shots. The interiors of the Crimefighters' secret(ish) HQ are pure Batman, swooping arches of black shadow, white light and stone whilst what starts as a punch up in a local pub leads to a quintessentially English chase sequence involving two of our heroes on bikes, one on rollerblades, fleeing an angry mob. The swooping steadicam shot that this scene climaxes with is genuinely beautiful, and made all the more so by how spare the film has been up to that point.

The Crimefighters themselves are the heart of the movie though, and this is where Watts, and co-writer Anna Cathenka do a couple of quietly rather brave things. Pip, played with perky aplomb by Paul Trimmer is a John Hughes hero minus the bland good looks, a man in love with the idea of law student Sophie (Georgina Hope) more than Sophie herself. One of the film's best moments comes when, out at the pub (Shortly before the punch up) Pip gets Sophie to sit with him and his two friends. Two conversations take place, one aloud and one silent, and the silent one, told in glances and smiles between Ella and Daisy, conveys far more information. Pip's a hopeless romantic with the emphasis on hopeless, and they know this and love him anyway.

The fact that two of the Crimefighters are female is also welcome and Emma Keaveney and Debbie Hard are the real heart of the film. Keaveney's Emma steals her scenes by doing almost nothing, a perpetually wry, laconic presence who is completely formidable except for where local policeman Ethan (Harry Humberstone) is concerned. The banter between the two sparks and bounces along and Keaveney's combination of unflappable calm and comic timing is one of the film's real assets.

Crimefighters' secret weapon is the relationship between Pip and Debbie Hard's Daisy. Daisy is everything Ella isn't; cheerful, friendly, endlessly positive and the easy chemistry she has with Trimmer is natural, unforced and genuinely sweet. Pip and Daisy are clearly meant for each other, clearly in love and Daisy is clearly the only one who's not only noticed but made peace with the fact neither of them are ready or ever may be. They have a pair of scenes towards the end of the film which are arguably it's highlights, moments of needle point perfect dialogue illuminating a type of relationship film too often ignores. The rest of the cast also impress, especially Hope as Sophie, Arron Dennis as the mysterious security guard Dave and Curt Milner as Ella's just to the left of creepy boss, Curt. Each is much like the setting, familiar but approached in a different and frequently interesting way.

With these two elements so impressive, Crimefighters is on strong ground from the start. It's only problems arise from the same thing that gives it much of it's energy; this is a grass roots film, made for functionally nothing. The sound is very muddy in several places, some lines would have landed better with another script polish and very occasionally, the natural sound buries the dialogue. It'd be easy to criticise the film based on these errors and some have, but the simple truth is Miles and co made a film, for under ten thousand pounds, and it works. This is a movie with a wicked sense of humour, a streak of northern deadpan a mile wide, three great female leads, a big heart and a look like very little else. Like it's main characters it punches far above it's weight and, like them, it deserves every bit of recognition it gets.

Crimefighters has just finished a tour of cinemas in the UK and will be released on DVD soon. More details can be found at the film's official site.

And here's the film's trailer. Enjoy.