I’ll be honest, seeing the words ‘British crime thriller’ in a film’s synopsis is often enough to have me breaking out in something akin to a cold sweat – especially if it proves a post ‘Lock, Stock…’ tale of lovable rogues trying to take down the local crime boss.

So here’s The Rise (formerly known as Wasteland) a tale of, yep – you’ve guessed it, a bunch of young whippersnappers who fancy taking down the local kingpin and swiping his cash.

But the big surprise is The Rise turns out to be a rollicking good yarn, with enough twists, turns and revelations to have even the most hardened crime fan guessing.

The film takes very little time in getting going, with a beaten and bloody Harvey (Luke Treadaway) slumped in front of copper Timothy Spall, being interrogated over a break-in, burglary and beat-down of crime boss Steven Roper (Neil Maskell).

But rather than shut up shop and keep his trap firmly shut, Harvey is only too happy to spill his guts, offering up a tale of how he and his pals got to that end result.

RiseThe rest of the film is then shown in a series of flashbacks, as we see Harvey hooking up with some old pals after being released from prison for heroin possession.

Turns out Harvey was actually set up for the fall by Roper, so he, along with mates Dempsey (Iwan Rheon), Dodd (Matthew Lewis) and Charlie (Gerard Kearns), decides to plot a way of getting back at the villainous bully.

What follows is a council estate Ocean’s 11, with the four lads plotting a raid on the local working men’s club, which also turns out to be a front for Roper’s dodgy dealings.

Further complicating matters is the fact that Harvey reignites his relationship with ex Nicola (Vanessa Kirby), leading him to question whether to go ahead with his plans for revenge.

But go ahead they do, with the bulk of the running time given over to the group’s planning for the attack, the attack itself and the immediate aftermath.

Director Rowan Athale, making his feature debut here, turns in a masterful display of rug-pulling, whipping the plot from under your feet every time you think things are sliding into predictable territory.

OK, so I suppose you could argue the unpredictability is in itself predictable, but it was enough to keep me interested.

The performances are solid all round – Treadaway does admittedly suffer from an inherent smugness, but he does a manful job of making Harvey a likeable lead.

The other gang members all bring their own individual quirks to the table, with Rheon producing particularly strong work.

You still get this nagging worry about just how these four loafers seem to have become master criminals in the blink of an eye, but it’s best to just run with it.

Spall brings a sense of ambiguity to his role, while Maskell is nothing more than the simple villain of the piece, strutting around in a puffer jacket trying to look menacing.

Kirby adds a female gloss to the overall product, although you have to question again just why she would allow herself to get sucked in to the mess.

Let’s not dwell too much on that stuff though, as the truth is The Rise, minor quibbles apart, is a cracking tale, one that rewards the viewer for paying interest.

Athale layers the film with countless bite-size pointers throughout that come together at the end in a neat bow, and considering the director also penned the piece, respect is due.

All in all, The Rise comes thoroughly recommended.

VERDICT: [rating=4]

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.