Blue Story

 

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Following its tumultuous cinema release, Blue Story arrives on video and Blu-Ray with none of its power diminished.

 

Blue Story
 

When Blue Story was released in British cinemas in November of 2019, it gained a notoriety contrary to what its writer-director had intended. News accounts differed at the time, but there were enough arrests and clashes with police at the Star City leisure complex in Birmingham, that the film was withdrawn from circulation by the Vue cinema chain. As hyperbole dominated the headlines, it was reported that disturbances involved almost 100 participants at 16 separate sites, resulting in the facial injury of seven police officers and machetes being brandished. Following accusations of “institutionalised racism,” Vue re-instated the film and it went on to gross £4,496,745 at British screens alone, which is remarkable for a home-grown drama costing a mere £1.3 million. More significantly, it out-performed such Hollywood rivals as Le Mans ’66, Charlie’s Angels and 21 Bridges.

 

Blue Story is the pet project of the rapper and music producer Rapman, drawn from his own experience growing up in Lewisham, South-East London. Dubbed the ‘Blue Borough’ for the colour of its signage and litter bins, the area has been declared the most dangerous place to live in Britain. Rapman – aka Andrew Onwubolu – certainly pulls no punches in his uncompromising and chillingly authentic portrayal of street life scarred and dominated by gang culture. As knife crime continues to be a thorn in the side of London’s mayor Sadiq Khan, guns would seem to be the order of the day here, taking lives as swiftly as their higher calibre counterparts in the US. An authentic touch is the smack of a heat butt or a fist in the face, which sound far worse when not accompanied by a superimposed whip crack supplied by the Foley department. The dialogue, too, although often hard to decipher by non-urban teenagers, is pure street.

 

By drawing on a culture he knows so well, Rapman has created a mise en scène that exudes an almost documentary-like realism. But no story, however strong, can captivate an audience without engaging characters. Here, the director – who has opened up the drama from his YouTube series of the same name – has cast three terrific unknowns: Stephen Odubola as the romantic, considered Timmy, Micheal Ward as the quiet, equally handsome Marco, and Karla-Simone Spence as Leah, a stabilizing voice of reason – with a voice to make Leona Lewis proud. But in spite of a carefree camaraderie, the ingrained violence of the streets intrudes on childhood friendships and young men are asked to prove themselves. A warped machismo enters the mix and gangs defend their post codes like a family member wronged, leading, inevitably – and repeatedly – to tragedy. Rapman is preaching fraternity and forgiveness – which makes the film’s violent debut in Birmingham all the more dispiriting.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Stephen Odubola, Micheal Ward, Eric Kofi-Abrefa, Khali Best, Karla-Simone Spence, Richie Campbell, Jo Martin, Junior Afolabi Salokun, Sean Sagar, Duayne Boachie, Terence Egnie.

 

Dir Rapman (aka Andrew Onwubolu,) Pro Joy Gharoro-Akpojotor and Damian Jones, Screenplay Rapman, Ph Simon Stolland, Pro Des Gini Godwin, Ed Mdhamiri Á Nkemi, Music Jonathon Deering, Costumes Ruka Johnson, Intimacy Coach Miriam Lucia.

 

Paramount Pictures/BBC Films/DJ Films/Joi Productions-Paramount Pictures.

91 mins. UK. 2019. Rel: 22 November 2019. DVD Release: 20 April 2020. Cert. 15.