I am currently working for a production company that is part-owned by Grover, and am in frequent, close contact with him.
That said, after long, hard thought I have decided to publish the review. I can’t promise that it will be as impartial as I would have liked, but equally I like to think that I am professional enough to be able to be objectively review a film, despite any personal or professional connection to it.
And if not, well, feel free to disregard the review as sycophantic rubbish.
Tony shouldn’t work. The central character is an action film-obsessed loner with awful personal hygiene and no social skills. The story doesn’t even attempt to follow the traditional, three-act, structure that is present in almost every successful film. There’s no first act, as such, to set up the challenges faced by the protagonist, and there’s no third-act resolution. The entire film is what would ordinarily comprise act two. There’s not even anything that’s particularly cinematic.
Despite all of these idiosyncrasies, the film doesn’t just ‘work’, but is in fact an absolute joy to watch.
The film’s lead, Peter Ferdinando gives a truly incredible performance as ‘Tony’. At once the character feels incredibly real, and utterly repellent, but also incredibly sympathetic. Ferdinando spent a month living the life of the character in the bedsit used for filming, and that hard work has clearly paid off.
The supporting cast are also excellent. The two drug addicts Tony meets early on feel simultaneously pathetic and menacing. Again, like Tony they somehow manage to force the audience to dislike them, whilst also feeling at least a small degree of sympathy for them. In a similar vein, Ricky Grover turns in a fantastic performance. While his early appearance is a little full on, there is a later scene in the film where it isn’t clear whether he is going to force his way into Tony’s flat or break down crying. It’s only a very brief moment, but the subtlety and nuance shown is surprising and welcome. The only weak note among the supporting cast is Ian Groombridge’s CID Detective. While only a very minor role, he feels too familiar, and too unprofessional, and simply doesn’t ring true.
Much of what makes the film work is the astonishing cinematography of David Higgs. The camerawork manages to imbue some, frankly miserable locations with, if not beauty, at least, watachability, and a sense of cinematic scope. Shot badly it could easily have felt like an episode of Eastenders, but with Higgs behind the camera it doesn’t. This is accented by some wonderful shots of London, which not only look beautiful, but also contrast with Tony’s bleak experience of the city.
Overall it’s hard to find much to dislike about Tony. The short running time helps keep the film concise, and the talent of the people either side of the camera make the film utterly compelling, and invite multiple viewings. Tony is destined to become a cult classic, and it deserves to, combining the urban realism of Ken Loach and Mike Leigh with a dark sensibility that is very much welcome. Tony is an excellent film, and is up there with the best films that UK film makers have created in the last decade.