Ricky Young goes daaahn ter Margate.
Look under a rock on Margate’s seafront and you’ll find the characters in Nathanael Wiseman and Robert Osman’s Hard Tide scuttling around – grimy little wannabe drug-dealers, on the verge of a mysterious big score and butting heads with the other dismal scrotes one rung up the ladder.
Posturing, swearing, hoodies, council estates, shouting, snooker-halls and grubbiness, right? Low-budget British crime potboiler tropes pile up right from the off in Hard Tide, but to give the film some credit, at least it tries to do something different. It doesn’t do much of it very well, mind you, but in a genre where every half-hour is required by movie-law to feature one snaggle-toothed lowlife slapping another on the head while shouting ‘you facking muppet!’, it’s nice to see someone trying.
Jake (Wiseman) is one half of an ultra-low-rent dealing operation. More thoughtful and less overtly dickish than his partner Alfie (Oliver Stark), he’s still not the sharpest tool in the box. (If we had to guess, we’d pick ‘pliers’)
One day, while preparing to take over his father’s criminal enterprises, he stumbles upon nine-year-old Jade (Alexandra Newick), all on her own in a superhero costume and avoiding her alcoholic dad. After his first attempt to get her home goes incredibly badly, Jake and Jade find themselves stuck together through circumstance, and despite Jake’s gut instinct to try and keep her safe, he soon finds out that the sudden appearance of a child on the scene isn’t ideally compatible with relationships, ambitious business partners, flourishing drug empires or local hardmen who want a slice of your action.
So that’s a story, then, and Wiseman and Osman try hard to make it work, but the film finds itself hamstrung by things it shouldn’t. Whenever the action’s outside, the coastal atmosphere, trippy soundtrack and late-afternoon sky give Hard Tide a pleasingly woozy and claustrophobic feel. But whatever was spent on helicopter shots of the seafront might possibly have been better put towards editing and lighting – some interior scenes look as if they’ve been shot through a Quality Street wrapper, while others seem to be made up of takes selected at random with no regard for continuity or flow.
The generally inexperienced cast are game and there really are some good ideas here. It’s the script that’s the main problem with Hard Tide – it needed less of a polish and more of an industrial sanding.
Lines of dialogue designed to serve no other purpose than to set up entire plotlines which are instantly forgotten, backstories deliberately spelled-out that never pay off, motivations that are either flagged with thudding obviousness or appear unbidden at crucial moments – hey, do you like rewinding a film to hear bits of chat because they seem to make no sense, then finding out that they actually make no sense? Well, you’re in luck.
“Who’s got the Amsterdam connection?” someone screams in a late-on big scene. The poor bastard being asked doesn’t know, which isn’t surprising, as up until that point the audience had no idea that there was an Amsterdam connection or that anyone was looking for it. SPOILER: it’s never mentioned again.
We don’t want to be too mean to Hard Tide. It makes the most of its setting, tries to tell a story from an interesting viewpoint, and really wants to have something to say. Tighten everything about it up by about 20% and it might have worked. (And we’ll definitely watch the directors’ next film.) But here, when the sloppiness of what’s onscreen kicks you out of its world for the third, fourth or fifth time, the road to Margate soon becomes too long a journey back.
Hard Tide is out on dvd now.