Flick (DVD)

From the pirouetting 50s poodle skirts to the tinny rock'n'roll standards of Flick's opening scenes, you get the feeling you're about to be force fed a weighty slap of sepia-tinged nostalgia. That it could all end up a little bit Life on Mars. Nothing however, could be further from the truth.

Flick is a high-concept, surrealist and perfectly realised film bridging the gap between gritty kitchen sink realism and stylised zombie B-movie technicolour – a gap I hadn't realised needed bridging until I'd seen the film. Teddyboy Johnny Taylor is a shy and stuttering misfit – the sort of socially awkward oddball that doesn't mean any harm... right? Well, until he sees the object of his affection Sal, getting more than a little intimate with some other guy on the dancefloor of his local disco, a disco he'd spruced himself up for with the sole intention of finally summoning the courage to ask Sal to dance at no less. After getting a little stab happy with what seems like most of the disco's male contingency, Johnny scrapes up a visibly disturbed Sal from the floor and whisks her away in his car. The journey ends in tragedy as we apparently see the end of Johnny - or do we? Back to the present day, Faye Dunaway's one-armed American cop partnered with local police man Mark Benton are draughted in to solve the case of a rockabilly serial killer. No prizes for guessing who that is.     
The plot is at times, a little heavy-handed though in a film this stylised, is almost secondary to its overall aesthetic and note perfect acting. Fay Dunawaye is wonderful as the wide-eyed and woozy Detective McKenzie – a beautifully over-the-top performance eschewing parody and perfectly in keeping with Flick's essence. Liz Smith delivers a marvelously unhinged portrayal as Johnny Taylor's genuinely creepy mother. We're even treated to a Richard Hawley cameo, for heaven's sake. A series of flawlessly crafted one-liners ensure just the right smattering of humour and knowing.  
Flick's unrelenting perfection and attention-to-detail does however, become a little cloying. Frame upon frame shot with such ridiculous panache gets a bit much and you find yourself almost yearning for a slight error of judgement – a wrongly dated costume or an inappropriately chosen song to pull it back down to earth. Filmed on a remarkably low budget in just under four weeks - Flick is small but perfectly, almost annoyingly, formed – and to entertain such a lapse of judgement is simply wishful thinking. 


Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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