Released from prison after serving time for murder, Sam (Clarke) returns home to find a new gang on the block and a rusty shiv with his name on it. As the day wears on, he’s forced to confront his enemies, his victims and his conscience, as the cycle of violence spins ever faster…
Two years ago, Kidulthood kicked up a proper tabloid tempest for its bleak, unflinching depiction of teen life in the big smoke: hoodies up, knickers down, sex, rage, guns and drugs... But it always aimed at realism, not sensation, like Larry Clark’s Kids after a Magners-and-crack binge - hangover included. Raw and rough-edged, Kidulthood also laid claims to a certain authenticity, drawing on writer Noel Clarke’s growing pains on a West London estate. This unexpectedly dynamic sequel, set six years on from its predecessor’s events, carries over the street-level feel, but takes equal inspiration from crime genre staples. It’s a depressing statement in itself that UK audiences can now accept firearms as a tangible reality on our screens, and Adulthood uses familiar thriller licks to highlight some fierce insights into the escalation of inner-city gang culture.
Pitched at the right momentum, there’s something satisfying about lifetime-in-a-day movies, and Adulthood delivers a dynamic shot of timebomb cinema. The villain in Kidulthood, anti-hero here, Sam emerges as a convincing, conflicted protagonist. It’s to Clarke’s credit that he makes Sam’s rage for redemption such a rootable proposition - you’re with him through every desperate scrape, punch and getaway. In fact, Clarke, on writer/actor/director duties here, teases some ripe turns from a busy ensemble. He also has a feel for pace and place: aided by Trainspotting DOP Brian Tufano, Adulthood hits a frantic beat throughout, revved on by an urban boomtrack, and only really loses its rhythm twice. A drug deal skit with a couple straight from a Mike Leigh audition feels clunky, while a gun-v-baseball-bat showdown goes an action-cliché too far.
Otherwise? Solid. In fact, Adulthood already feels like it fits in the tradition of Great British Grit - Alan Clarke especially. Strip away the slang and tracksuits, and it compares well with the likes of The Firm and Scum (recalled in the brutal prison flashbacks) and the two (unrelated) Clarkes share the same anxiety over flash-temper alpha males and the searing subcultures that surround them. It ain’t pretty, but it’s a million postcodes from the fantasy geezer-land of Guy Ritchie, and a lot more vital. And, really, how could you possibly dislike a British movie that namechecks Um Bongo?
Tense, tough, troubling stuff. A Rudeboyz N The Hood loaded with British grit and energy to spare.