From the biting political satire of Borat to the biting comedy horror of What We Do in the Shadows, the mockumentary format has endured over the years because of its versatility. But the greatest examples of the genre all have in common a refusal to wink at their audience. However outlandish the joke, it’s always funniest when played completely straight.
In Crack, director Peter King draws on the dour social realism of films like Noel Clarke’s Hood trilogy or Matthieu Kassovitz’s La Haine to satirise two birds with one short. Crack takes aim at the media’s obsession with ‘chav’ culture, and the persistence of patently untrue stories about childhood games like conkers or leapfrog being banned by a nanny state run amok. “Once something gets outlawed, it becomes exciting,” observes Jay, leader of a gang called the Brixton Hit Squad (or BHS for short).
Certainly the sight of a bunch of burly teenagers in baggy trousers playing at conkers never fails to amuse; particularly when a fight with a rival gang reaches a showdown that owes a debt to 8 Mile. But the standout sequence is a visit to The Cook (played with a kind of wide-eyed mania by Niall Phillips), whose operations would put Walter White to shame.
Still, though the visual trappings of Crack will be thoroughly familiar to most viewers, there’s something unexpectedly sweet seeing them re-framed in such an innocent context. And by never once allowing his cast to wink (save one glance at the camera in the film’s final moments), King makes the comedic moments shine all the more brightly. If nothing else, it may give you a strong urge to rummage around in the roots of a horse chestnut tree this autumn.
Now, about that sequel involving marbles…
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CAST: Alex Harvey, Tyrone Lee Davis, Darren Douglas, Isis Davis, Niall Phillips
DIRECTOR: Peter King
WRITER: Peter King
SYNOPSIS: A new craze is taking over the estates of London. With fights, street deals and territorial warfare growing ever-more dangerous, it won’t be long until it’s out of control.