After a Christmas of brussel sprouts, pickled eggs and Guinness even our Editors wife didn’t want to sit by her now gassed up husband whose emissions put him in contravention of the UN’s weapons of mass destruction policy (‘You’re fired!’ – Ed). Mercifully Gassed Up is not that film but instead follows Ash (Stephen Odubola) a black teenager with a long absent father and a mostly absent and drug dependent mother leaving him alone to look after his younger sister. It’s little wonder that he’s so easily fallen into a life of crime which here is being part of a moped gang stealing mobile phones from unaware pedestrians finding their phones snatched from their very hands on the streets of London.
Ash’s partners in crime include Dubz (Taz Shylar- who co-wrote the screenplay) , Roach (Craig Middleburg) Kabz (Mohammed Mansaray) and Mole (Tobias Jowett) who steal phones en masse to supply the beautiful Albanian vampire like she-criminal Shaz ( Jelena Gavrilovic). Inevitably their criminality is going to escalate. Zipping around on their scooters like a wish.com version of Fast & Furious their crimes are thrillingly shot and presented as an almost aspirational lifestyle but as the film progresses these wannabe gangsters come across as little boys woefully and dangerously out of their depth when the bosses up the ante.
Stephen Odubola is decent enough in a role that sees him struggle to escape what he finds himself ever more and seemingly irretrievably sucked into. But it’s a bit of a stretch for the script to attempt to elicit any sympathy for him when his reason for such crime is to fund his mum into rehab and has all the credibility of Boris Johnson answering questions under oath. His back story is the one that’s most explored and that he fails to respond to his mother’s ex-boyfriend Roy (Steve Toussaint) vain attempts to be a father figure in his life makes Ash even less sympathetic. It is the scenes Ash has with his younger sister living off takeaways that her older brother buys her that contain the films rare moments of humanity. Craig Middleburg as his fellow gang member Roach, a scooter rider so ginger haired that he risks immediate skin cancer should he take his helmet off has a far more credible back story which is only briefly glimpsed. It’s an excellent scene as Roach, so readily drawn to using violence, is himself the victim of his own father’s abusive violence with the sort of trigger hair temper that could have him mistaken for a Vietnam war veteran going through an acrimonious divorce.
London saw a spike of these sort of scooter gang thefts some years ago and was an ideal basis for such a film but with film production being time consuming to develop, finance, shoot and release such a film it is almost immediately dated on release several years after police have so effectively clamped down so hard of this type of crime that was quickly reduced if not all but eradicated. The film has its moments although this type of London urban gang related drama was better served by Top Boy but BAFTA winning director George Amponsah continues his interest in stories of black youth drawn into criminality and this does have inspired moments notably a dream sequence where Ash walks through his estate imagining himself to be a respected criminal bigwig in complete contrast to where he finds himself by the end of the film. It’s a kind of morality tale warning of the dangers of being drawn into such a lifestyle which is likely to be overlooked by its intended audience and Gassed Up runs out of steam by the end.
related feature : We take a look at North East crime drama, ‘Jackdaw’
Here’s the Gassed Up trailer….