Directors: Femi Oyeniran, Kalvadour Peterson
Cast: Scorcher, Dylan Duffus, Jade Asha
Watch The Intent online in the UK: iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Rakuten TV / Google Play
“Ah, yes,” you might think, looking at the poster for The Intent, “another British gangster film.” But this low-budget flick suggests from the beginning that it’s aiming to do something a bit different.
The influence of Noel Clarke’s Kidulthood and Adulthood can be seen everywhere in the background of these London streets, as it can in a number of similar films over the years. While many are prone to glorifying the thug life of wayward teens, though, Femi Oyeniran and Kalvadour Peterson’s story often has a little more grit than glam.
Our window onto the world is Lee Biggins (Duffus), to use his police name, or “Gunz”, to use his gang name. Sent into the TIC crew undercover, he’s tasked with helping to bringing down the criminals from within. They certainly have a fair way to fall: within no time at all, the crew’s ambitions move from standard weed dealing to armed robbery, fuelled by greed for money and power.
As the group become more and more violent, Lee finds himself torn between getting sucked into the rewards and getting out of dodge and back in line with the law. It’s that central dilemma that drives the narrative, which veers between excitement and danger, to somewhere more interesting than the standard hooded actioner. It helps that Dylan Duffus delivers a strong turn as the likeable lead, supported by a solid, intimidating performance by rapper Scorcher as gang leader Hoodz. Co-director Femi Oyeniran, meanwhile, brings the perspective of a man on the right side of the tracks to the party, as his character becomes drawn to the redemption of the local church.
Overniran and Peterson direct their cast with energy, from a garage shootout that proves impressively messy to the pulsating soundtrack – and the stakes are inevitably raised, as rival crew The Clappers get wind of TIC’s rise. The script doesn’t always match that standard, though, with some moments feeling repetitive and others leaving you wishing for more made of the shades of grey surrounding our morally conflicted copper (Lee’s snappy superior officer is disappointingly two-dimensional) – but a bookended slow-motion sequence leaves the firm impression that there are some promising storytellers here looking to move away from the cliches of the wider pack. The Intent doesn’t quite manage it, but it’s a strong, confident step.