All Things to All Men  (2013)    63/100

Rating:   63/100                                                                        84 Min        15

A crime thriller set in London that is in many ways comprised of very basic ingredients, but all those ingredients are executed with enough panache to make it work . Features gangsters, thieves, corrupt police officers, drugs and diamonds all to the backdrop of a good scene-setting soundtrack, and a lot of nice scenic shots of the city. It’s one of those films where you don’t need to pay a great deal of attention to get the gist of what’s going on, but when you do stop to think about it some of the trusts put in certain characters may seem a little far fetched, though on the whole it is believable enough. There’s a distinct lack of the sort of endless gratuitous swearing which is normally ever present in British gangster films, courtesy of criminals with a bit more class led by Gabriel Byrne – looking a little like Christoph Waltz here for some reason. Also with, bizarrely, Julian Sands (‘A Room with a View’ 85), Toby Stephens, and a noteworthy turn from Rufus Sewell.

The drama, of course, surrounds a fairly extreme scenario, an insider heist worth millions of pounds, but it tries to briefly touch on real issues, suggesting some officers can only make arrests by themselves committing perjury, for example, though there is no discussion as to whether that is due to the system or individuals (there is a heavy suggestion of course given the nature of the film). Unfortunately, the important work the police in Britain do is all too often undermined by stories of corruption in the media, even on a large and endemic scale such as the recent Hillsborough probe that revealed endless false testimonies from officers and the botched Jimmy Savile investigations, where scores of witnesses were never taken seriously at the time.

They are not currently being helped, however, by the present Tory government who have decided to privatise parts of the force (as well as severely cutting it) together with welfare, two elements of society that should absolutely never ever be privatised. Despite being exposed in the media as being hopelessly unfit for purpose, the agencies used in the welfare scandal, many of which have already been kicked out of other countries such as Australia, are being paid public money to effectively force the poor to work as slaves in order to receive state benefits, the equivalent of two pounds something an hour, under threat of starvation and homelessness if they refuse, using companies that should be paying them at least minimum wage to do the same job. Interestingly, a few police officers in London are also facing corruption charges over lying about what a certain Tory minister may or may not have said to them after they told him to get off his bike and walk (click here for more details), though I think their hearts were in the right place in that instance….

These socio-political things find their way into cinema, often in understated terms. Even the recent release of ‘Identity Thief’ has Jason Bateman make the comment that the police in America don’t appear to be able to do anything unless they catch someone actually in the act of committing a crime due to the bureaucracy involved (interestingly, in that film they plan to secretly record conversations to use as evidence, a stalwart of crime films. There, the police are complicit, but in most law systems, including Scotland’s, evidence gained this way is unusable in court, and generally frowned upon unless obtained with a police warrant). For a few films based on true stories of corruption see ‘Midnight Express’, Sidney Lumet’s ‘Serpico’, and the recent Polish film ‘The Closed Circuit’ for a bit of a geographical spread.

‘All Things to All Men’, takes its title from the famous phrase in the New Testament of the Bible (First Corinthians – 9:22), and is written and directed by George Isaac – a double debut for him after previous roles as producer on Noel Clarke’s gritty ‘Kidulthood’ (06) and its sequel ‘Adulthood’ (08), and overall, here he has done a pretty decent job.

As an aside, the following is a very illustrative, and important, interview between the former head of A4E (one of the private welfare agencies), Emma Harrison, and Krishnan Guru-Murthy for Channel 4 News, some of the elements they touch upon are, I believe, simply the tip of the iceberg. Also, see the equally important clip afterward from the Guardian, who were approached by a DWP whistleblower…

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