With grime currently capturing the attention of music lovers the world over, now is the perfect time for British hood movies to get some much-needed international shine. You might be aware of British gangster flicks such as The Krays and Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels, but there’s a whole load of grime-influenced, London-set hood films that non-British audiences are basically unaware of, just waiting to be discovered.
The easiest way to explain UK hood movies to an international audience would be to describe them as London’s take on ‘90s classics like Juice, Boyz N The Hood, Menace II Society and New Jack City. It is important to note that there’s a lot more to the genre than just aping an American style, though, and the wave of hood movies definitely take as much from British social realist cinema as they do US hip-hop. But just as the explosion of gangsta rap found itself onto the big screen in the early ‘90s, the early days of grime (and its predecessor, UK garage) soon started influencing low-budget British crime films—often starring artists themselves.
The first notable movie from the genre was 2004’s Bullet Boy, a serious and powerful tale of a young man returning to his East London home after serving time for gun crime. But it was 2006’s Kidulthood that really sparked the genre. The success of this film meant that every little UK film distributor went scrambling trying to find their own hit about bratty kids doing crime. For the next half a decade or so, cinemas and DVD stores were filled with knock-offs, not unlike the psuedo-Snatch cockney gangster movies that followed in Guy Ritchie’s wake.
Pretty quickly though, the market was flooded with sub-par imitators. Hood movies became a bit of a punchline in the British film industry, and the fall in DVD sales really hurt where these films normally made their profit. They are still being made, but they don’t have anything like the impact they used to. Kidulthood turns ten this year, and that generation has now grown up, but sadly these films still don’t seem to get the respect they deserve. Now though, with the culture that created them beginning to get international interest, let us be your spiritual guide.