Fantastic Fest Review: Efficient Shocks & Ample Tension Save "Tower Block" From Its Weak Characters

Fantastic Fest Review: Efficient Shocks & Ample Tension Save "Tower Block" From Its Weak Characters

Review by Matt Barone (@MBarone)

Directors: James Nunn and Ronnie Thompson
Stars:: Sheridan Smith, Jack O'Connell, Ralph Brown, Russell Tovey
Running time: 87 minutes
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Score: 6/10

There's a moment in the visceral British thriller Tower Block that's easily one of the biggest "oh, shit" jolts in recent memory; perfectly timed and unexpectedly brutal, the scene, which shall not be spoiled here, comes about 20 minutes into the film and sets the tone for what's, after that point, a lean, mean, economical exercise in claustrophobic paranoia and pick-'em-off violence.

If directors James Nunn and Ronnie Thompson had found ways to repeat the money-shot scene's impact over the film's remaining 60 minutes, Tower Block could've found itself ranked amongst grade-A Brit shockers like Eden Lake and Kill List; unable to strike such a jolting chord ever again, the filmmakers ultimately deliver a fast-paced affair seeped with dread but also marred by thin characters making a series of idiotic decisions.

Largely set inside a run-down, due-for-demolition apartment building, Tower Block, written by James Moran, opens with a jarring, well-executed prologue in which a teenager unsuccessfully flees from a pair of ski-mask-wearing hoodlums, causing a tragedy with dire consequences. A year later, those consequences materialize in the form of a sniper, positioned in a building directly across from the one occupied by Tower Block's ensemble of on-the-fly survivors and picking off anyone unfortunate enough to open a window or step foot outside. And, it's worth noting, Nunn and Thompson have solid chops when it comes to making sure a bunch of gunshot deaths never feel repetitive or stale.

If only the viewer was motivate to give a damn about any of the potential victims. Despite a few impressive performances, namely from Sheridan Smith (the film's Sigourney Weaver of sorts) and Jack O'Connell (as an antagonistic drug dealer turned resourceful ally), Tower Block unshakably suffers from a script that's best when assaulting the senses and at its worst whenever character development is all too briefly attempted. An abundance of gaps in logic also plague the film, like the question of how the sniper is able to spot each person so quickly once windows are drawn, and why one matriarchal character would think it's safe to exit the building when it's so obviously not.

Taken as a efficient supplier of several to-the-gut thrills, Tower Block works on a surface-level assessment. But any efforts to dig deeper into its narrative will produce more groans than gasps.

Review by Matt Barone (@MBarone)

Tags: fantastic-fest, tower-block, james-nunn, ronnie-thompson, james-moran
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