Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Awfully Direct: "4. 3. 2. 1"

4 girls. 3 days. 2 cities.
1 crappy story.
What is 4. 3. 2. 1?
    4. 3. 2. 1 is a 2010 British crime thriller directed by Noel Clarke, of Doctor Who fame. The film was met with mostly mixed reviews from critics, which could explain it's trouble crossing over to America, where I'm not quite sure if it even got a DVD release. The lack of recognition of this film here, despite the fact that it features American actress Emma Roberts, is what first interested me in it. And since it's available of Netflix Instant, I figured I should give it a look. The film, however, might not have been worth the watch.

Split screen activate!
What is the plot?
    The film opens with four friends, Shannon (Ophelia Lovibond, a perfect Bond Girl name), Cassandra (Tasmin Egerton), Kerrys (Shanika-Warren Markland) and Jo (Emma Roberts), eating at a diner. While here, a man tries to steal Kerrys purse, but not before Kerrys catches him and promptly kicks his ass. You know, so we know she's a strong woman! As they leave the diner, a group of thugs suddenly start getting chased by cops and one accidentally bumps into Cassandra. The girls say good-bye and go their separate ways.
    It's here that the film breaks into it's normal format. The film tells each of the girl's stories one at a time, with them occasionally crossing paths. First up is Shannon, who heads home. There, she discovers that her mother is leaving and that she left Shannon a note explaining everything. However, Shannon can't seem to find it. Gee, I wonder if this will be important later on? Upset, Shannon sneaks out and starts to spray paint a mural under a bridge. It is also here where the film starts with it's odd Pringles product placement, but more on that later.
    Shannon decides to pay Jo a visit, only to get a gratuitous shot of Emma Roberts in her underwear. Classy. Jo has to rush off to work, leaving Shannon in the dust. This is how most of the stories "overlap" with the characters running into each other for a split second and then not actually having scenes together until the ending. Later on Jo calls Shannon and tells her to come over to her work (Which I can't remember ever happening in either storyline) only to have Jo tell her to screw off. Angrily, she takes a box of Pringles and goes back to her spraypaint, where it's revealed that she was painting an apology to a baby. Hey, get the twist yet?
    Suddenly, Shannon almost get raped, because as we will soon learn, all men are terrible in this movie. She is rescued by a mysterious stranger (I seriously have no clue) who takes her back to her apartment. But, it turns out she's a bad guy, looking for some stolen diamonds. Shannon escapes and discovers that the diamonds are actually in the Pringles can! I always knew Pringles where special. She then decides to see her mother, who confirms our suspicions, as she reveals that she forced Shannon to give up her baby. She tries to tell the rest of her friends this, but since no one seems to want to talk to her, she decides to commit suicide, by first taking pills with alcohol and then standing on the edge of a bridge. But not before looking at the diamonds. Oooh shiny, shiny diamonds!

Time travel hasn't done Mickey well.
    Next, the film rewinds the tape (literally) and starts to follows Cassandra this time. Cassandra is getting ready to travel to New York City in order to meet with a piano teacher for an audition. She flies out and as it turns out, had other reasons for the trip. See, she's here to meet "Brett" a man she's been talking to on the Internet. Because that's safe to do! However, it appears as though Brett has stood her up. Later she's in her hotel room when she gets a guest. A man (Freddie Stroma) is there and immediately Cassandra assumes it's Brett. Seriously. She doesn't ask for his name and she doesn't even think about why he stood her up or how he knew where she was staying. After the formalities ("It's you. Yay.") are over, the two to get naked and begin to have sex, which is Cassandra's first time. When finished, Brett offers Cassandra a drink, which causes her to pass out.
    When she comes to, all of her stuff has been stolen, except for her purse, a large amount of cash and her jacket (Worst thief ever!). Upset, she uses Brett's address (which she somehow has) and travels to meet Brett. I should mention that the film starts to take a creepy tone here, with Cassandra putting on her jacket and nothing else, leaving her pantsless for the entirety of her story. Even though we see that she still has a bag of money and is even in Times Square and her story takes place over two days she never thinks to buy pants. And it's not because she needs the money to get home, as she uses the money to buy a plane ticket and a new dress at the end of her story.
    Once at Brett's place, she discovers that Brett is really a nerdy stereotype that has been stalking her and devised this whole plan. She ties nerdy Brett up as well as the Brett she slept with once he walks in. Now, this is the climax of her story, with her taking revenge on the guy who she got stalked by. However, what about "Brett's" plan made sense? Why stalk her and have someone else sleep with her? How did he stalk her if he lived in New York and she lived in London? Why did he steal all her stuff, which is never mentioned again? Why didn't the Brett she slept with show up when he was supposed to? Why drug her if you're in love with her? Why do any of this?
    Anyway, after taking demeaning pictures of "Cool Brett" (The character's actual official name) for taking her virginity, even though it was just as much her fault as it was his (She had sex with him without even asking his name!), "Cool Brett" breaks out and chase after her. However Casandra is saved by a strong black woman and her entourage of tough black cousins, who promise to tattoo Brett with whatever Cassandra wants. That's not racist at all. And if you completely forgot about her piano audition, don't worry, because she gets to have it and gets the teacher's approval. Hooray pointlessness!
    Now, if you're wondering what any of this has to do with Shannon, then you have discovered the film's main problem. None of the four stories every really connect and are more a loosely connected series of vignettes rather than a movie about a diamond heist. Which would be fine if that's what was advertised. However, Cassandra's story does have a few connections to the others. First, Cassandra discover Shannon's mother's note in her purse, as well as one of the diamonds. The note, apparently, is "shocking", as Cassandra sends it back home, using an odd extended cameo by Kevin Smith (Seriously. He has three scenes in this movie.), even though she goes home the next day and could have just brought it with her then.

She's not fabulous.
    Next up is Kerrys, the least interesting of the four. Kerrys, as it turns out, is having family troubles, as she is constantly acting out toward her not biological father and is often out causing trouble with her girlfriend Jas (Susannah Fielding). With Cassandra gone, Kerrys and Jas break into her place to stay for a few days while her brother's birthday passes by. They decide to go out clubbing, but first, they part-take in some gratuitous nudity and a pointless sex scene. Yay, lesbians!
    While at the club, Kerrys does at least get the best line in the movie, where, in responce to a guy asking if she kisses her mother with that mouth after she swears at him, she says "No, but I kissed your mom last night with it". Humor. This movie gets it. Kinda. Anyway, Kerrys spots Shannon getting drunk at the bar and about to go home with a stranger. In Kerrys's ensuing attempt to protect Shannon, she accidentally purposefully starts a bar fight, forcing them out of the club. A real catch this character is.
    The next day she fights with her brother and heads over to Cassandra's, but not before giving Shannon the cold shoulder. At Cassandra's, Kerrys and Jas are surprised to find Kerrys's brother there as well as a safe room under a bed. The girls foolishly wandering into the safe room, allowing Kerrys's brother to lock them in. I should also mention that at this point Kerrys is only in her underwear, which she stays so long in that they even have her in her underwear on the film's poster! The girls do some soul searching as Kerrys's brother throws a party and the girls are forced to call Cassandra for the code to get out of the safe room. And the code is 4321. Fan-freaking-tastic.
    Kerrys breaks up the party, scaring everyone out somehow. Because a 115-pound girl in her underwear is so scary! The girls head home to Kerrys's brother's party, where Kerrys tearfully apologizes to her father. See, she only wanted him to say he loved her, and she tried to get him to say that by purposefully doing things that embarrassed him. Wait...
    Anyway, Kerrys discovers Shannon's note which Cassandra sent Kerrys via Kevin Smith (It gets worse) and in shock, goes to look for Shannon. But first, she plays a trick on her brother by drugging him with female-Viagra, which somehow give him an erection? Because that's how that works! She then steals his present, a new car, destroying her relationship with her father once agian. But it's okay. She's doing it for her friend!
I know how you feel.
I have a headache too.
    Finally, we get to Jo's story. Maybe now the film will finally explain what's going on, what with the note and diamonds we know virtually nothing about an hour and 20 minutes into the movie.  So, after leaving the diner, Jo travels home to finds that her workman father has broken his leg and that she will have to work the late shift at her stepmom's friends store to make some money. Angry, Jo goes to get changed (Complete with the gratuitous underwear scene again!), which is when Shannon arrives and Jo blows her off to go to work. At the store, she discovers that the manager Tee (Played by director/writer Noel Clarke), is kinda a dick. Oh, and as we know from the beginning of the movie, he's one of the bad guys. Oh no!
    The night passes rather uneventfully, with the exception of a pointless and just plain weird scene of Jo needing to *ahem* attend to some womanly needs, with Tee being a jerk to her. Which is pointless since we already know he's the bad guy. The next day Jo once again discovers that she has to work at the store, and she reluctantly goes to work. This night however, is a little more eventful, with Tee's partners in diamond theft coming in and holding the store hostage until Tee gives them the missing diamond that's in Cassandra's purse.
    The bad guys hold the store's workers and customers, including the mystery woman from Shannon's story for a rather pointless amount of time while Tee hide the rest of the diamonds in a random Pringles can. Shannon walks in like she did in her story, before getting kicked out by Jo, angrily grabbing a can of Pringles on the way out. And Shannon is none the wiser that they were all held hostage. Seriously? She couldn't tell something was weird. And the bad guys never thought to locked the doors? They can barely rob a convenience story well, so how the hell did they commit the "biggest diamond heist in British history"? Also, really movie? Shannon just happened to grab the random can that had the diamonds in it. Wow, what luck.
    Fortunately for Tee and the rest of the bad guys, Jo and the store workers are all idiots, as they call the police, but tell them nothing about the bad guys, even though Jo has the goddamned security tape! It doesn't matter if Tee is in the room with you, he doesn't have a gun and he'd be stupid to try anything in a room filled with police officers. Plus, if you weren't going to tell them anything, while call the police in the first place?
    In the final night of the story, Jo once again returns to work, but not before the mysterious woman walks in and takes the store hostage. Again. Suddenly Kerrys literally crashes in, as she slams into the front of the store, with hardly an injury, taking out all of the bad guys and letting the random police casing the store a chance to arrest them. Kerrys and Jo get picked up by Cassandra, on her way to find Shannon, and they go to the bridge where she's about to jump. The surprise of them showing up causes Shannon to lose her balance and fall, barely grabbing the ledge and hanging on. How original...
    The girls pull Shannon up and apologize for how they treated her. They tell Shannon they found the note and we finally learn what it says. It's about her giving up the baby. The big shocking note the movie has been building up to the entire hour and fourty minute runtime of the film tells us something we learned in the first half-hour of the freaking movie! What a load. Shannon pulls out the diamonds, which she somehow managed to hold on to even though she was holding them in her hands when she fell. The girl rejoice and decide to have a little fun. Even though Shannon still is overdosing on pills but whatever.
    The girls give the diamonds to Shannon's dad, telling him to return them and collect the reward, leaving him to ultimately get arrested for the crime when he can't explain what happened to them. Well, that doesn't actually happen, but that's what's gonna happen you stupid idiots! The girls then buy sexy new clothes and fly off to Undisclosed to have some fun. Even though without the reward money they can't afford any of this, but hey, fun! But, wait, it turns out the mysterious woman somehow got away from the police and is on the plane with? And what happens next? Nothing. That's it. The film just ends there. Again, what a load.
What a wacky adventure!
Is it really that bad?
    Honestly, 4. 3. 2. 1 isn't terrible. The directing is good, the acting is fine and I can't say I wasn't entertained or compelled to finish watching the movie. But the plot is complete crap. The film valiantly tries to do something different by splitting the narrative four ways, but it fails miserably. The stories barely are connected to one another except for the bookends and when they do connect, it's in superficial ways like phone calls or characters passing each other on the street. Cassandra's story could have been completely removed from the film with no ill effects. On top of that, the note is a lame attempt at a twist, telling us something we already knew. The diamond heist is barely explained, even though it's the connecting story of the film. And there's so many plotholes, that the film trips on one almost even single scene. Overall, 4. 3. 2. 1 is a countdown to a ton of let-downs. 4. 3. 2. 1 gets 2 and a half stars out of 6.
This has been Awfully Direct and remember,
if it's not in theaters, then it's not safe.


  1. Hello there! I am actually interested in one thing, could you be so kind and please tell us the place where you spent your childhood?

    1. Strange question... but I grew up in Western Mass!