Best mates Matt (Henry Lloyd-Hughes, The Inbetweeners) and Dylan (Jack O’Connell, Skins) are looking for alternative working arrangements.
Tired of stealing cigarette machines from naked and overweight pub landlords, the duo instead decide to throw a massive party and stake a claim to the thriving rave scene of 90’s Manchester. Earning a small fortune on their first night, and quickly learning as they go along, Matt and Dylan endeavour to turn their love for a good party into a lucrative business venture, enlisting the help of their friends and local pirate DJ Captain Acid (Tom Meeten) to make it happen. When their success attracts the attention of local kingpin John the Rat, however, their friendship begins to unravel as competing priorities are forced to the surface.
I don’t know who was asking for a 90’s rave movie, but director Karl Golden has certainly risen to the challenge with a relatively arresting take on Chris Coghill’s script. Well acted and competently shot, the film paints a wincingly realistic picture of 90s life – the rave scenes as realistic as anything featured in the two leads’ respective back catalogues. Tom Meeten is a revelation as the perpetually drugged-up Captain Acid, his presence instantly elevating any scene he comes into contact with due to a boost in onscreen charisma and general dynamo.
Unfortunately, Meeten is painfully underused – as are the majority of the supporting cast (Zawe Ashton was fantastic in Blitz but barely registers here). Although Matt (enthusiastically naive) and Dylan (wants out) are both well written, the plotting is all over the place. Invited to Spain by seasoned raver Gary Mac (Stephen Wight), the partners are invited to tour Europe promoting a series of giant raves, a dream job to which the instantly agree. Rather than delivering on this plot development, however, a cut later Matt and Dylan are inexplicably back in Manchester as if nothing happened.
Although this particular thread is picked up again later – awkwardly integrated into the woefully contrived denouement – it is one of many that completely disregard Chekhov’s gun maxim; introducing story elements that are never seen or heard from again. Dean Andrews’ crusading police officer quickly butts horns with our budding party-planners, his antagonistic relationship and determined demeanor apparently setting up a dramatic confrontation which never comes. In fact, there is little drama at all on display in Weekender, the get-out-of-jail-free ending effectively undermining any jeopardy and doing the characters a complete disservice.
Likeably acted despite the uneven plot, Weekender appears to put more care and attention to detail into its rave scenes than it does into its narrative fluidity. As Manchester’s answer to Trainspotting, it’s an entertaining – if forgettable – slice of escapism that unfortunately doesn’t pull enough punches to be hard-hitting or dramatically satisfying.