16 Years Of Alcohol

2003, Movie, R, 102 mins


Knowing that writer-director Richard Jobson once fronted the acclaimed art-punk band the Skids (remember "Scared to Dance"?) will in no way prepare you for this strikingly accomplished adaptation of his own autobiographical novel. After a fatalistic opening worthy of such noir classics as NIGHT AND THE CITY (1950), the action flashes back to the '60s and the moment when young Frankie (Iain De Caes) realizes the love between his booze-loving, good-time-Charlie dad (Lewis Macleod) and pretty mother (Lisa May Cooper) is a lie: Frankie spots Dad in a back alley with a local bird. It's then that Frankie sneaks his first taste of alcohol, and after his fed-up mother finally leaves, he starts dipping into the bottle with some regularity. Some 10 years later, the little tippler has matured into a skinhead thug (TRAINSPOTTING's Kevin McKidd) who bashes his way around the pubs and record shops of Edinburgh with three other violent droogs, including stone-cold psychopath Miller (Stuart Sinclair Blyth). Frankie's violent, boot-boy ways are temporarily reformed by his love for Helen (Laura Fraser), a pretty young art-school student with the guts to stand up to him. Frankie, however, is about to discover that the straight and narrow is the hardest path of them all, and that "vengeance," as he so artfully puts it, "is a brilliant motivator of the hopeless." You can't cut corners when describing a downward spiral, and it shouldn't come as a shock when your protagonist suddenly shows up at an AA meeting and announces that he's a drunk, which is exactly what happens here. After so effectively tracing the origin of Frankie's alcoholism in a brilliant first act, the drinking takes a backseat to Frankie's psychotic violence and his character doesn't quite add up. The voice-over is a touch pretentious and a few scenes play like acting exercises, but the film is filled with a real sense of hopeless poignancy. Given Jobson's CV, it comes as no surprise that the soundtrack is filled with great tunes that help define the era's youth culture. Overall, it's a seriously flawed but impressive and promising debut, and by all accounts Jobson's follow-up, martial arts punch-up THE PURIFIERS (2004), does not disappoint. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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16 Years Of Alcohol
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