SLAVE opens with a quick montage of stylised, home video-style clips while David (Sam Page) narrates. He tells us how he was born in Britain, but moved to America as a young boy with his mother when she caught his dad with prostitutes.
We then learn that David is now grown up with a full-on Yank accent and has met the beautiful American girl Georgie (Natassia Malthe), who he intends to marry. First though, she wants to meet his father.
So, the pair fly out for a week in Spain, to meet dad Robert (Michael Maxwell) who now lives there in a luxury villa. He's an old-school Cockney who now owns a club out in Spain, you know. Nothing dodgy about him then.
David and Georgie arrive in Spain, enjoy a bout of sex and then head out to Robert's club on their first evening where Georgie's erotic dancing attracts the eyes of the local men. It's little surprise then, that when David retires to the bathroom to douse his drunken face in tap water, Georgie has disappeared upon his return.
Initially David tries the local authorities for help but they seem highly suspicious of him, and so it falls upon his dubious father to come to his reluctant son's assistance.
But who has taken Georgie, and for what purpose? Can Robert be trusted, or is he part of what David increasingly believes to be a conspiracy? And how much does Robert's shifty right-hand-man Marlon (Howard Marks) know?
SLAVE looks gorgeous, making great use of its sunny locations and widescreen exteriors. Georgie and David make for highly attractive leads, complementing the sublime landscapes and blue skies perfectly. Polished and colourful, SLAVE is an aesthetically rewarding experience ... in the same way that, say, THE BUSINESS was.
Also in it's favour, it can be said that SLAVE is efficiently edited and boasts a decent soundtrack of commercial sounds.
But, in essence, this is a thoroughly unoriginal and tiresome film that peters out within minutes.
It is devoid of suspense because it treads a path we have seen countless times before. By attempting a blend of Cockney crime drama and dark thriller, this should have been an intriguing proposition. Instead, it doesn't push far enough in either direction. As a result, it's watered down both in the mobster family melodrama and human traffic horror stakes.
None of the characters are believable, let alone likeable. The dialogue is so clichéd it's frequently embarrassing (right from the offset, with David's narration and Robert's philosophical quotes both coming on like bad copies of Guy Ritchie scripts - which themselves are poor fanboy interpretations of GOODFELLAS chic).
Action scenes are filmed in a distinctly flat manner, with director Darren Welch appearing to be far more interested in trying out hackneyed camera gimmicks to demonstrate the effects of drink and drugs (speeded-up film; freeze-frames, etc). It's so old-hat that it's almost laughable.
Everything, literally everything about SLAVE has been seen and heard countless times before. Characters are carbon copies of those seen in the likes of SEXY BEAST and THE BUSINESS, while the profane language is devoid of context or - consequently - impact.
When the film finally moves into darker territory and we get a clearer idea of Georgie's fate, SLAVE fails to push for any horrific reveal. Instead, it comes across as a tame cousin of HOSTEL.
For the most part though, this is an incredibly clichéd Cockney gangster drama with mere hints of a darker purpose at heart. A film you can literally predict from the first minute onwards, it's nice to look at but as empty as Katie Price's skull.
SLAVE is presented uncut in anamorphic 1.78:1. The transfer is clean and sharp. Crisp detail and strong natural colours compliment the sun-kissed visuals beautifully, making for an outstanding video playback.
English audio is available in 2.0 and holds up extremely well throughout. As with the picture quality, there are no complaints in this department.
Extras include two behind-the-scenes clips. The first one is five minutes in length, and features Darren Welch and Toby Moore giving off-screen instructions while we watch a wobbly camera get in close on two cavorting actresses.
The second clip, six minutes long, offers alternate takes of David Gant getting into character/overacting (watch and judge for yourself), while Welch continues to direct behind the screen.
"The Making Of SLAVE" is an interesting and slick twenty minute documentary that offers a nice mix of film clips, on-set footage and interviews. Split into chapters such as "The Cast", it's an engaging and illuminating watch that improves the viewers' perception of the minds behind the film. Welch is a likeable, sincere chap - although describing his own film as an interpretation of a Greek tragedy is perhaps taking things a tad too far!
Finally, we get the original theatrical trailer (no, I don't remember this one in cinemas either). This is a polished and pacey affair that manages to sell the film effectively in 90 seconds.
An animated main menu page gives access to a static scene-selection menu, where the film can be joined by way of 8 chapters.
The disc opens with trailers that give you a fair idea of what to expect from the main feature: Cockney gangster documentary THE END (as in, the East End) complete with forced English subtitles; THE HEAVY which boasts an interesting cast including Gary Stretch, Vinnie Jones and Christopher Lee; and what looks to be an unconvincing modern noir called KILL KILL FASTER FASTER.
SLAVE is a pointless exercise. If you like British mobster films, then you may be attracted to this regardless. But it's not GET CARTER. It isn't even on a par with LOVE HONOUR AND OBEY. As a horror film it's a non-starter, despite its potentially scary plot (which is apparently based on a true story).
Malthe is as gorgeous as the cinematography, it must be said. But the film is rubbish. Which is a shame, as the disc is okay.
Review by Stu Willis
|Released by Spirit Entertainment|
|Region 2 - PAL|
|see main review|