Set on the uncompromising streets of the East End, McKell David plays Montana, a 14-year-old who skips school to work for the treacherous Slavko (Zlatko Buric) and his henchmen, Pitt (Adam Deacon) and Ryan (Ashley Walters). However when delivering some goods on his boss’ behalf, Montana is robbed, leaving him to return with his tail between his legs. The incandescent Slavko demands the youngster is ‘taken care of’ – but Montana escapes, seeking refuge at the makeshift abode of Dimitrije (Lars Mikkelsen), who has an agenda of his own – wanting to take revenge on Slavko for savagely murdering his wife and child. So the pair begin training, waiting for the inevitable confrontation against this notorious crime-lord.
While unreservedly entertaining in parts, unfortunately Ali struggles to lift himself up out of the realm of conventionality, with a hackneyed take on the revenge plot thriller, offering little we haven’t seen before, as this remains frustratingly faithful to the tropes of the genre. The paramount message is rather questionable too, of a young boy being taught that violent, bloody revenge is the only solution. Of course Ali has a responsibility to reflect reality and there are psychopaths out there like Slavko or Dimitrije, but Ali also has a responsibility not to glamourise their actions, but Montana is depicted as being so cool when callous and when equipped with a gun it becomes almost like a video game, mercilessly killing all of the ‘bad guys’, in a rather irresponsible fashion.
Nonetheless, it is the character of Dimitrije which makes this picture so easy to enjoy, not only enhancing the picture from a narrative sense when he joins proceedings, but the performance levels too, as Mikkelsen is the most accomplished actor in this production. David should be commended too, as the newcomer seems as confident and nonplussed as his on-screen character, seeming so comfortable in front of the camera.
Montana is throwaway cinema to some extent, but unashamedly easy to watch in the process. While we learn that the streets of London can be a brutal, menacing place, we also learn that “I’ll take you to Nandos” is a line that genuinely works as a way of persuading a girl not to walk out on you. Noted.