Set The Thames On Fire: The BRWC Review

film reviews | movies | features | BRWC Set The Thames On Fire: The BRWC Review
This strange and bleak debut from Director Ben Charles Edwards and Writer Al Joshua is set in a future London where the Thames has risen and left the great city in abject disarray. Set the Thames on Fire looks like Baz Luhrman’s Moulin Rouge on a comedown, sitting in a seriously damp seat after too many sherbets. The backgrounds and establishing shots have a lot going for them and it gives the movie an assured quality that helps go some way to distract from the film’s shortcomings.
The narrative is essentially an episodic tale involving our two protagonists (A piona player named Art and an escaped mental patient named Sal) bumping around from crazy character to crazy character as they attempt to complete their quest to get enough money together to leave these sodden “Dickensian” streets and escape over to Egypt.
The two lead actors are both perfectly passable, if a little unremarkable. Michael Winder’s Art is a quiet Bob Dylan lookalike with a lost love and Max Bennett’s Sal is all bolshie bravado and quick wit. As the opening monologue crudely states “Sometimes all it takes to become friends is to be the only two people in the room who aren’t cunts!”.
The supporting talent are interesting and varied enough, with Sadie Frost playing Art’s landlady who is abundantly horny and David Hoyle popping up as a magician who, with a single monologue over a card trick, essentially steals the show. We also have Gerard McDermott as a brutal city boss called the Impressario and the one and only Noel Fielding playing a transgender gentleman who is particularly fond of S&M. It all adds up to a cast of characters that wouldn’t be out of place on Fielding’s surreal classic The Mighty Boosh, and therein lies the rub. This film feels like a stretched out and bled dry version of an episode of some dark comedy you would catch inadvertently in the middle of the night on BBC3. It has ideas, it has interesting and decent quality set pieces and it has confidence in what it wants to achieve however for this reviewer it felt boring and fundamentally flawed by it’s format.
Much like the portrayed streets of this cold and grey London, my thoughts on this film are cold and grey. If you are a hardcore fan of surrealist new wave then you may find much to like here but unfortunately for me there just wasn’t enough to set my interest on fire.

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