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Look Back in Anger

Nil by Mouth is so gritty, it verges on the unwatchable

On the good side, though, Oldman demonstrates talent as a director. For a first-time director, especially, he throws off great flashes of style throughout the film. The movie's visual highlight may be the fun the camera has with the stark, inhuman geometry of the high-rise housing projects Billy runs through on his way to buy drugs, just past the movie's midpoint. And the film's performances are all memorable.

Winstone is so convincing as the bullish Ray that he's genuinely scary to watch on-screen -- especially when he's drinking Smirnoff out of the bottle or beating hell out of friends and lovers. He's a powerful enough actor, and an intimidating enough character, that a little of him goes a long way. The film might have been more successful -- evoking, for instance, some empathy for these losers' plights -- if the more levelheaded and charismatic Mark had served as the center of the action. As it is, it's hard not to simply side with the women in the film and dismiss the guys as a bunch of dangerous, drunken creeps who deserve a world little better than the one they've got.

Nil by Mouth.
Rated R.
Directed by Gary Oldman. Starring Ray Winstone, Kathy Burke, Charlie Creed-Miles, Laila Morse and Jamie Forman.

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