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Stormy Monday Review

As soon as those choked-out jazz notes hit the streets and the American voice comes out of the English radio, it is clear to see the inevitable path Stormy Monday will take. America Week takes place, whatever that may be, as a reason for so many Americanisms to take place. It is surely the effect director Mike Figgis has. He is not comfortable in his own skin, clamouring for that route to Hollywood that every creative must surely dream of. It worked for him, but at what cost? Slick and sleek, with the American invasion of Newcastle in full swing, there is a lack of representation of the area it looks to depict. Sean Bean comes close, Sting too, but how they swindled their way into this late-80s thriller is beyond me.  

They are not the best-suited to their roles. Bean has been utilised better before, and here as nightclub cleaner Brendan, he does not rise to the challenge of, well, whatever it is he is meant to be doing. That is never made clear. Figgis throws us right into the action, which is slow at the best of times. He forgets that pacing and detail are necessary to this story. All we can surmise here is that a meeting of some description is happening, a takeover of some nondescript business. That is as close as we get, the rest of the film is fixated on pairing Brendan with Kate (Melanie Griffith), who have a modicum of chemistry with one another.  

Presumably, because I’m local to the area, I would never consider why an American businessman would attempt to breach the United Kingdom. What is there to offer in the streets of Newcastle that America cannot offer? They utilise American colloquialisms, their set design is steeped in the bar and diner aesthetics of 80s America, and it all feels a tad far away from the realities of the north. Figgis’ intentions are sure to showcase the cultural divide between Brendan, Kate and Cosmo (Tommy Lee Jones), but he forgets to include the British aspects. Everything, from the soundtrack to style, character to clunky narrative checkpoints, is seeped deeply in Americanisations. It is meant to reflect the change-up found in the north, a change that never happened. What would the point be, then?

Despite its North East setting, there is still a thick layer of American sheen. Why bother traipsing all the way to Newcastle if you’re to give the representation of nothing but thugs? It is another shoddy presentation of that divide between north and south. Thugs up the top end, businessmen in the south. Perhaps Cosmo is trying to legitimise the north, for nobody else dares do so. Flimsy the story may be, at least Jones has a fantastic performance in him, but that is par for the course. He is always muted, condescending and blunt. It is his shtick, and with nobody around to detract from his performance or usurp his role, he provides some brilliant work. A sad shame, then, that it is stuck to the underside of this overbearingly mediocre piece. One good performance can often save a mediocre film, but that implies we as an audience have any idea why anyone is doing anything.  

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Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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