Film Noir has gone through many different permutations since the days of Sam Spade pistol-whipping gangsters. We’ve had Neo-Noir, Neon-Noir, Western Noir and Tech-Noir, yet to the best of my knowledge we have never had Queer Noir. This feeling was shared by directorial team Sam H. Freeman and Ng Choon Ping who have decided to rectify it with Femme, a neon-infused revenge thriller with LGBT characters firmly at its centre.

The film follows Jules (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) a drag queen assaulted in the street by Preston (George MacKay) a young thug who had been checking him out earlier that night. Left shaken by the incident he withdraws from his career and his community until by sheer chance he spots Preston at a sauna. Plotting to seduce and expose the blatant closet case, Jules embarks on a dangerous path that explores the performative nature of masculinity, leaving both men rocked to their core.

Like all the best Film Noir, Femme is an exceptionally tense, morally grey affair. Taking an inherently sympathetic protagonist like Jules and watches him fall towards the very toxic behaviour he is trying to avenge. All while running the risk of Preston’s fury, a fact layered over every scene by MacKay’s frighteningly intense performance. Far more measured than his turn in True History of the Kelly Gang, Preston is terrifying precisely because of how rarely he truly goes off. His aggression bubbles under the surface like a pressure cooker, never letting you know when it might burst.

Probably best known for TV’s Misfits, Stewart-Jarrett is well-seasoned in playing men trapped in their masculinity. Now willingly stepping into that trap he more than holds his own against MacKay. Playing a chameleonic figure presenting submission and dominance as the moment demands it. When he finally adopts the right vibe to lure Preston into his honeytrap you can’t help but share the same sense of grim satisfaction knowing that comeuppance is near.

Freeman and Ping’s appreciation for Noir radiates throughout the film. Set mostly at night the film is lit in nightclub neon and streetlamps. The dinginess of London’s less-reputable areas marked on the walls in graffiti and shadow. It all serves to ramp up the atmosphere of the dark thriller that the film evokes. An R’n’B soundtrack amps up the suspense like an escalating heartbeat while keeping the film firmly grounded in its modern day underworld.

Femme is a more than worthy addition to the canon of Neo-Noir variations. Freeman and Ping like to describe themselves as  ‘queer creators breaking into a straight space’ but here they have firmly brought the heteronormative Film Noir to them and made it on their terms.