Snow in Paradise
Dave is seemingly happy with his life of petty crime and drugs, until things take a sinister twist.
British gangster films are a hard genre to master. You need just enough Cockney twang to give a menacing overtone, but not so much that it all starts to sound a bit Dick Van Dyke. Too much rhyming slang and you run the risk of your criminal overlord sounding like a Pearly King, plus most people won’t have a clue what’s going on. On top of that, Hoxton is hardly the mean streets of south central LA, so you get the picture.
Nonetheless Snow in Paradise attempts to inject something new into this somewhat tired format; namely Islam. It’s based on a true story and sees main character Dave (newcomer Frederick Schmidt) for the most part happy with his life of petty crime and drugs. He has close friend Tariq (Aymen Hamdouchi) to call on when needed and is planning to rise up the ranks of his uncle Jimmy’s (Martin Askew) criminal gang. He’s also being courted by his late dad’s best friend Micky (David Spinx), who comes calling with tales of a sublime life on offer in Essex.
But as happens in all good gangster flicks, Dave gets greedy and isn’t quite as wily as he thinks. His supposedly cunning plan has massive implications for those around him, thrusting him fully into the criminal life he’s seemingly craved but is woefully unprepared for.
There are some solid things about Andrew Hulme's film, namely a believable turn by Schmidt, who makes the in many ways reprehensible Dave a kind of antihero for the audience. But it’s not enough to make this, at best, just another UK gangster flick – promises that it’s injected with questions about religion and shows Islam as a way of escape aren’t delivered. While they are hinted at in early scenes, we don’t get any meaningful insight into these themes until one hour and 15 minutes into the film. And even then it’s all a bit ham-fisted.
There are moments where first-time director Hulme attempts to inject some tension into proceedings, but the dialogue always lets him down. “He’s with me, he’s proper!” “Want some, do you?” “Leave it out!” – all this runs the risk of transforming what could be an interesting concept for a film into a caricature. As it’s billed as being about a man who discovers Islam and realises it can help him reject his old life for something more peaceful, we want to see more of this happening. And less of the hackneyed take on gangster lingo, too.
Added to that, the only main female is a toughened prostitute called Theresa (Claire-Louise Cordwell), who provides the male characters with a lot of ammunition to attack Dave. Again, it’s a cliché and you can’t help thinking the filmmakers didn’t need to go down this route.
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