I Against I (2012)
“Two Men, 12 Hours, One Must Die!!”
Director: Mark Cripps, David Ellison
Cast: Kenny Doughty, Ingvar Eggert Sigurdsson, Mark Womack
Synopsis: Focusing on the timeless themes of jealousy, murder and betrayal, ‘I Against I’ is set over one night and utilises different time lines to reveal a dark and unexpected conclusion to a simple mystery premise.
It’s interesting the way many modern movies have dispensed with the hero, choosing instead to have the audience rooting for the bad guy who either shares some of the principles common to most decent people, or is at least not as bad as all the other bad guys in whatever movie they might be in. A moral anchor, once the inviolable rule of writing, is no longer a prerequisite, but if British crime flick I Against I has its way, neither is a likeable character of any description. Without exception, every character in this movie is nasty and self-centred, and I despised every one of them. By movie’s end, the only character to have at least displayed any consistency or integrity is the biggest bad guy of the lot, and that just has to be wrong in every way possible…
The film opens with nightclub owner Ian Drake (Kenny Doughty) fleeing the scene of a murder. Drake’s a throwback to those yuppie types we all loved to hate back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and although he’s cast as a decent man forced by events beyond his control to perform acts he wouldn’t normally consider, he comes across as having all the moral fibre of a man with a bridge to sell. We then see gangster Joseph Carmichael (Mark Womack) pushing a gun into Drake’s face. Joseph is the dead man’s son, and although there was no love lost between them, it’s clear that he’s a little peeved at someone stabbing his dad to death. Somehow, Drake manages to persuade Carmichael that he’s not the culprit, but instead of slapping him on the back and apologising for all that gun-waving business, Womack tells him he has until 6AM the following day to kill a complete stranger. It never occurs to Drake to ask why he has to do this if Womack believes he had nothing to do with killing his dad, but unfortunately that’s typical of the writing in this lukewarm thriller which claims Le Samourai amongst its influences, but which never comes within an inch of that movie’s quality. A photograph of the stranger, together with an electronic tracker is all Drake is given to help him track down and eliminate his quarry, even though we later learn that Womack knows exactly who he is.
Drake was seen leaving the scene of the crime by Isaac (Ingvar Eggert Sigurosson), who just happens to be the man whose photo Womack later hands to Drake, and it quickly becomes apparent that Isaac is set on terminating Drake. Later, we see Isaac undergoing the same treatment from Womack that Drake underwent and immediately most of the pieces of the so-called puzzle will fall into place for most viewers. Nevertheless, we still have a long way to go in the movie, and a game of cat and mouse played out against the slick but coldly impersonal streets of the City ensues. Unfortunately, what could have been an exciting and intriguing slice of high-adrenaline moviemaking is derailed by an awful screenplay which botches almost every key moment and contrives to shoehorn a completely ludicrous drug-deal-gone-wrong scene into the story for no reason other than the writer presumably thought it would look cool.
To say I Against I is a huge disappointment is an understatement. I greatly admired Dead Man’s Cards (2006), a movie which cleverly blended a Western storyline into a modern urban crime setting and which was made by many of those involved in this movie. The quality of the direction, which James Marquand, the director and co-writer of Dead Man’s Cards here shares with Mark Cripps and David Ellison, is just as good, and the movie looks terrific thanks to the work of cinematographer Matthew Whyte, but in every other department the movie has to be judged a failure. I didn’t like any of the characters, so I didn’t care what happened to them, and even though it only runs for 84 minutes I was checking my watch long before I Against I came anywhere close to reaching a conclusion.