Plastic (2014)

PlasticWhile at university, students Sam (Ed Speleers), Yatesy (Alfie Allen), Fordy (Will Poulter) and Rafa (Sebastian de Souza) are subsidising their studies with a sideline in credit card fraud. The group find themselves in even more trouble than usual when Yatesy and Rafa inadvertently inconvinience mob boss Marcel (Thomas Kretschmann). To pay off their debt to Marcel they must raise £2 million in two weeks, and so they recruit Frankie (Emma Rigby) — a girl from Sam’s class who works for a large credit card company —  and travel to Miami with an array of cloned credit cards in order to raise the money without implicating her in the crime. When Yatesy jeopradises their operation they are forced to rethink their plan, instead deciding to defraud a jeweller’s by pretending to be representatives of a foreign sultan.

As unlikely as it might sound, Plastic is in fact based on a true story. Sam (really Saq Ahmed, who acted as a consultant on the film) did indeed begin his criminal career at university, conning fellow students and robbing from some of the richest men in the world throughout the eighties and nineties. Even the heist has a basis in reality, with Saq and some friends — including a woman who worked for American Express — stealing £2 million worth of jewellery in a manner similar to that portrayed in the film. Director Julian Gilby does take the odd liberty, however, namely with the character of Marcel and the film’s more violent scenes. In many ways the film could be seen as a British (or indeed male) answer to The Bling Ring, Sofia Coppola’s 2013 dramatization of the infamous Hollywood Hills burglaries. Plastic may lack the style and much of the satire of Coppola’s film, but it’s arguably more enjoyable.

Whereas The Bling Ring focussed on spoilt rich kids starved of attention and desperate for fame, Plastic concerns a team that are slightly more sympathetic; they’re students set to graduate in the middle of a recession (as relevant now as it was at the time of Saq’s original crime spree), largely targeting those who can afford it and then leaving them to reclaim the stolen money through their insurance. It’s also a lot livelier, with various disguises, reconnoitres and scams proving rather more entertaining than a third or fourth visit to Paris Hilton’s bedroom. The cast are likeable enough too: Ed Speleers convinces as a charismatic conman, while Will Poulter is clearly having a ball as the sweary sidekick and Sebastian De Souza mixes things up nicely as a petrol station attendant you do not want to mess with. Alfie Allen is suitably repellent as the group’s resident loose canon, though all that really distinguishes him from his character in Game Of Thrones is the colour of his hair. Rigby is undoubtedly the weakest link, though to be fair to the actress she does have a pretty thankless role.

That said, while it starts out promisingly enough the film soon begins to test its audience’s patience. For a relatively high-concept heist movie it’s not as much fun as you might expect, with the drama regularly getting bogged down with the same arguments and rivalries. The idea that they are all to some extent there against their own will (Sam didn’t so much recruit his team as manipulate them into joining) is an interesting one, but while the plot calls for the occasional double-crossing you never get much insight into the motivations behind them. What’s more, budgetary constraints are often felt when the characters are spending their earnings; a second act visit to a strip club feels horribly staged, while the costumes hired for the daring final heist are no more convincing than the centurion garbs worn to a fancy dress party earlier in the movie. As things escalate — Sam and Fordy, Marcel, a local crime syndicate and the Metropolitan Police all converging on the same location — the film becomes more and more ridiculous, even if Graham McTavish’s pantomime performance as the conned jeweller is a wacky delight.

By most standards Plastic isn’t anything special, but in terms of British crime movies it is just accomplished enough to stand apart. Plastic has a capable cast, a decent soundtrack and a remarkable true story at its centre, and Gilby has just enough twists up his sleeve to prevent his film from being entirely predictable.

2.5-Stars

 

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

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