TYRANNOSAUR Drama. Starring Peter Mullan, Olivia Colman, Eddie Marsan, Ned Doherty, Sally Carman. Directed by Paddy Considine. Cert 18
Having come to prominence in Shane Meadows' A Room for Romeo Brass and cemented his reputation as an actor in Meadow's Dead Man's Shoes, it's no shock that in his first full-length feature as director Paddy Considine has picked up hints from his mentor.
Meadows has a fondness for taking an apparently innocuous scene and flipping it on its head in a moment, frequently involving a sudden and disturbing burst of violence. In Tyrannosaur Considine lands his first blow in the opening scene as Joseph (Peter Mullan), a drunken Scotsman, is thrown out of a bookies' shop and promptly kicks his pet dog to death. Mr Considine, you have our full attention.
Within minutes we see Joseph abuse an Asian official in a post office, put a brick through its window and then batter a couple of annoying yobs in a pub fight. Clearly not a happy bunny, Joseph escapes a beating by seeking refuge in a charity shop run by Hannah (Olivia Colman), a perky Christian whose worldview seems a universe away from that of this raging wreck of a man.
The idea of opposites attracting is as old as drama itself but in his beautifully weighted script Considine never goes for the obvious, as he looks at two people whose inner lives may not be what they appear on the surface.
For all his bitter bravado, Joseph knows that he's a deeply flawed human being, yet one capable of occasionally letting a chink of light shine through the cranky camouflage. His concern for a neighbouring boy living in a dysfunctional home and his visits to a dying friend suggest he's not beyond redemption.
The strength of the story though lies with the plight of Olivia. Her work in the charity shop provides relief from a dreadfully abusive marriage, with her outwardly respectable husband James (Eddie Marsan in a chilling display) the true monster of the piece.
As a gifted actor himself, Considine has a fabulous feel for his performers' work, allowing the ever-excellent Mullan to dig deep and give a convincing portrayal of a complex and frequently unlikeable man.
The real revelation here though is Olivia Colman. Previously best known for her work on Peep Show she's outstanding in the role of a woman at the end of her tether, clinging to her faith and sanity.
Tyrannosaur couldn't be mistaken for the latest piece of Hollywood froth, but the film does have several light touches. Irish actor Ned Dennehy provides comic relief as Joseph's deluded drinking buddy while there are echoes of Ken Loach in the way the film depicts life on the Leeds estate in which it's set.
For all that, Tyrannosaur contains several deeply disturbing but never gratuitous moments in a film which whets the appetite for Paddy Considine's next outing behind the camera. HHHHI