Countdown to major success for Noel Clarke?

— Ed Cottingham contributed with this review

From the off-screen diamond heist to the jigsaw narrative structure, Noel Clarke has clearly looked to Quentin Tarantino for inspiration on his latest outing, “4.3.2.1”. A thriller about a group of strong willed girl-friends with attitude who find themselves embroiled in the dodgy dealings of some stolen conflict diamonds.


Noel Clarke, the writer of "Adulthood" and "Kidulthood", returns with his new picture "4.3.2.1" Photo: Universal

Teaming up with director Mark Davis, Clarke writes, co-directs, and stars in a fairly minor role, while Shanika Warren-Markland, Ophelia Lovibond, Tamsin Egerton, and Emma Roberts take the four lead roles.

Clarke splits the action between central London and New York, a step up from the confines of the mean streets of West London that were the home of his first projects, “Kidulthood” and “Adulthood”.

The ambitious narrative follows one of the girls before rewinding and following another, intertwining the stories and revealing more about the characters and their problems (both personal and diamond related).

Unfortunately, this unconventional structure isn’t executed as smoothly as a Tarantino film, and it lacks clarity at points. Also, none of the characters are likeable, particularly the four leads, whose acting is sub-par although the script doesn’t really give them any help. Clarke still hasn’t quite got the knack for writing female roles and some of the dialogue sounds unnatural coming from women.

Any women who do decide to see the film are unlikely to feel empowered or inspired given the amount of time the four leads spend in states of undress. I doubt there will be many complaints from the male audience, though.

When Clarke does get it right, though, the dialogue is both quirky and slick, and the humour comes courtesy of cameos from the likes of Eve, Kevin Smith, and Ben Miller. There are also many familiar faces from “Kidulthood” and “Adulthood” appearing in minor roles in “4.3.2.1”, and a few members of the cast (notably Adam Deacon and Bashy) contributed to the soundtrack.

It’s quite hard to pass an overall judgement on “4.3.2.1”. Yes, it has its flaws — some of which are significant, but you can’t help feel a certain sense of loyalty towards a British film.

In many ways, it’s better than some of the drivel that has been churned out of Hollywood this year, and it manages to emulate the big budget look but with a raw and gritty edginess, characteristic of modern British cinema. This is all achieved without the backing of major studios (although Universal is attached), without a bloated budget or expensive CGI, and with a cast that borders on the modest and unknown. In that respect, it is quite an achievement.

For his next project, whatever that may be, Clarke should perhaps stay behind the cameras so that he can totally focus his efforts on directing. “4.3.2.1” is far from perfection, but it certainly a step in the right direction for Clarke and it is just a matter of time before he achieves greatness.

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