This debut feature by Helen Walsh is set in the ‘wastelands of Cheshire’ – it was filmed in and around Birkenhead on the Wirral, where Walsh currently lives – and it’s a dour grim-up-north tale that details the struggles of a working class teenager named Shelly (newcomer Lauren McQueen) and her younger brother Jerome (Callum King Chadwick), who have both spent a period in care following the incarceration of their abusive father. They live with Shelly’s aggressive, racist brother Andy (Derek Barr), and he’s just one of a number of unsavoury characters the pair have to deal with during the story, some of whom are manipulative or out to cause harm in one way or another. Stephen Lord’s sleazy and violent loan shark is probably the worst of the lot, and its his attraction to Shelly that sets the narrative wheels in motion, while there’s also Rachel (Brogan Ellis), a girl from an affluent background whose motives for instigating a friendship with Shelly are initially unclear, and whose kindness masks a troubled, vindictive side. There are committed performances here, and there’s certainly a degree of promise shown with regard to some of the actors who are at the beginning of their careers, but the film is ultimately let down by a poorly-judged and badly-executed final act, which drops kitchen sink realism for gun-related melodrama; the story becomes less clear and the action is rushed, particularly during the film’s most crucial scene. The Violators isn’t bad, and I don’t want to unduly knock a debut filmmaker or a relatively young, inexperienced cast, but there are a number of British films each year that blend together working class-focused kitchen sink drama with a story involving some criminal element or other, and for one to stand out from the pack the standard needs to be higher than that reached here (see for example last year’s Glassland or Catch Me Daddy).

Directed by: Helen Walsh.
Written by: Helen Walsh.
Starring: Lauren McQueen, Brogan Ellis, Callum King Chadwick, Stephen Lord, Derek Barr, Liam Ainsworth.
Cinematography: Tobin Jones.
Editing: Kyle Ogden.
Music:
David A. Hughes.
Certificate:
15.
Running Time:
100 minutes.
Year:
2016.