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Malice In Wonderland (DVD)

Danny Dyer down a rabbit hole

Disc Specs

Starring Danny DyerMaggie GraceMatt KingNathaniel Parker Disc Cover
Directed By Simon Fellows Certificate 15
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1
Visuals 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Running Time 83 mins
UK Release Date February 8, 2010
Genre Action, Drama, Fantasy
Our Rating
User Rating

Say what you like about Danny Dyer, the guy keeps busy.  If IMDb is to be believed he has no less than 10 movies out this coming year.  Is it because (the excellent Human Traffic aside), while he’s well practised in what he does, he’s about as much versatility as a mouldy bit of wood?  Maybe.  Is it because he’s willing to work for a cup of tea and half a Jammy Dodger?  That’s probably a factor too. 

My own personal theory is that, whilst his filmography is a mixed bag and his box-office return is (forgive the pun) dire, there’s some kind of primordial appeal about the man.  Something that speaks to a lot of men between the age of 16 and 35 and taps into the inner Nuts magazine reader in all of us.  In short, Danny Dyer is what all men would be were it not for those niggly annoyances of civilised society and women.

In Malice In Wonderland Dyer plays Whitey, who, whilst running late for a delivery (you see what they did there?), runs over a mysterious blonde girl (Maggie Grace). As a result of the accident, she loses all her memories, including her name, which remains a mystery for much of the film, presuming you haven’t yet looked at the DVD cover and were making a cup of tea when the title appeared on-screen.  He drives her off to London’s Underland (noticing a pattern yet?), where she meets a plethora of kooky characters based loosely on Lewis Carroll’s iconic nonsense fiction.

Dyer is in comfortably familiar territory here with Whitey’s ‘nice one geezer’ persona, and to be fair, he knows what he’s doing and does it satisfactorily for much of the piece.  He struggles more however when trying portray the character’s lonely madness.  Whitey, the middle-man, is just as lost as his passenger and, had Dyer tapped into this, he might have made the character more engaging.  More interesting are those with less screen-time, especially Bronagh Gallagher as Hattie, whose Bonham-Carter-esque quirkiness is criminally underused.

Director Simon Fellows has a decent go at selling the viewer on the grim East End reflection of Carroll’s surreal genius and for a time he and writer Jayson Rothwell appear to be making some headway.  The film’s low budget actually suits its goals as Underland unfolds in front of our heroine in gloriously subversive retro fashion.  After a while though, the duo lose sight of this and begin trying to rope the wandering steer of a story back on track whilst simultaneously shoehorning as many references to the original story in as possible (Wow, Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee are heavies outside a night club, didn’t see that coming.  Oh look, that drug dealer is called Caterpillar and instead of a smoking a hookah, he’s got a smoking hooker, brilliant).

15 years ago, before films like Clueless and Ten Things I Hate About You made the ‘[Literary Classic] but set in [Familiar Modern Environment]’ format a staple, this film might have had something to say, but time has done this concept no favours and this example is constantly derailed by a messy plot and unnecessary references back to the source material.  It has its moments, particularly involving Nathaniel Parker’s monarchical crime-lord Harry Hunt and Grace gives a decent central performance as the lost girl grasping for control.  Unfortunately, these are only mild-distractions from what is a promising concept turned into an unsatisfying mess.

Overall Verdict: A potentially decent stab at grimy crime fantasy that ultimately trips over its own messy plot before it can become anything worthwhile.

Special Features: None

Name of Reviewer: Alex Hall

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