Close friends Sam (Ed Speleers) and Fordy (Will Poulter) may just be students, but they run a fledging criminal enterprise, making a lot of money from stealing from the more affluent members of society and big corporations, through credit card fraud and the marketing of stolen goods. Having persuaded both Yatesey (Alfie Allen) and Rafa (Sebastian De Souza) to join in with their illegal activity, the group realise they’re going to need more help, therefore recruiting Frankie (Emma Rigby) as when a robbery goes wrong and a sadistic, notorious gangster (Thomas Kretschmann) threatens them with their lives, they need to raise millions of pounds to pay him off.
The biggest issue with Plastic, is quite how reprehensible our protagonists are. If you take Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, for instance, which is evidently an influence over this title – the lead roles may steal and con people, but their victims are generally other criminals, keeping it all on the wrong side of the law. In Plastic, the characters are stealing off innocent people and you struggle to root for them as a result. Gilbey really does attempt to paint all of the victims out as rude, arrogant and discourteous to vindicate the group’s actions – but it doesn’t work. These people may be a little supercilious, but they’re hardly deserving of their fate. The director may have fared better had he just portrayed the lead roles as being snide and deplorable, rather than try and make them charming, charismatic and supposedly endearing.
That’s not to say lead roles can’t be flawed, of course they can – particularly when based on a true story, where there’s a responsibility to remain faithful to the events that took place. However it’s the fact that we’re evidently supposed to root for them, and it simply proves to be too much of a struggle, which is immensely detrimental to proceedings. Allen’s Yatesey aside, they’re all supposed to be so charming and empathetic. In some ways the group are representative of a volatile time to be young in Britain, where money is tight and future’s are unwritten – though that’s no excuse for this behaviour. You know, most people just get a bar job.
To counteract the questionable ethics of the piece, sadly the acting isn’t quite strong enough to make amends, with Rigby the key offender. Clenching your jaw and staring out into the distance is okay once, but after a while you can’t help but question if that truly constitutes as acting. She isn’t blessed with a very well-crafted character either, as one of many badly written female roles, most of which are just there to be conned in one way or the other, be it financially, or into bed. Conversely, Poulter impresses as always, and Allen plays a brilliant imbecile with such conviction, as a really hateful figure, and a performance that must be commended for rousing so much disdain from the viewer.
Similar in some ways to Rowan Athale’s The Rise – Plastic is an unpredictable, albeit convoluted production that bears many twists and turns for the audience to enjoy. However unlike the aforementioned title, Gilbey’s effort struggles to capture the suspense that is required to truly make this film triumphant. Losing that key ingredient then makes the other faults glaringly overt, as any misgivings you may have then proceed to take precedence.