A squad of foul-mouthed mercenaries, escorting prisoners through a war-zone, becomes psychologically cut adrift in a surreal squall of machiavellian mind games.
As the expletives and surprise spewings begin to pile up so do the problems. A jumble of decapitated corpses is one thing, but when a phantasmal fucker in a gas-mask joins the party the shaken soldiers of misfortune seek sanctum in the belly of a bulldog tank.
Once trapped inside the beast, dreamlike fissures fragment the group dynamic and the hired guns begin to cannibalise each other’s sanity.
Nick Gillespie’s claustrophobic horror thriller Tank 432 was executive produced by hypnagogic sharpshooter Ben Wheatley (Kill List). His fingerprints may well be on the surface, but the ink used is far more achromatic and insipid than that tattooed threateningly across his own filmography.
The backdrop for the conflict is as unconvincing as it is unspecific and worse still the antagonists so obscured as to be imperceptible.It is totally understandable that Tank 432 needed to conceal some sequential seams.The problem is that the level of ambiguity exhibited during long passages of the film, robs the audience of any dramatic participation, thus installing a key variable in the equation for pure cinematic boredom.
Things do improve once the protagonists are encapsulated inside the tank, an environment that is well handled by lensman Billy J.Jackson, but the same frustrating lack of congruity between character response, environmental interreaction, and emotional resonance remains.
In one scene queasy rookie Reeves loses jurisdiction over his bowels and establishes the only sliver of audience empathy in the whole movie, highlighting the broad schism between character and caring that swallows up any trace of catharsis.
The acting in limited location movies is always a vital attention grapnel throughout periods of budgetary restriction. The Tank 342 cast grits its teeth gamely in the face of a script that is terminally preoccupied with the tenability of its own denouement.
Deirdre Mullins is watchable as the token medic as she scans everyone’s pupils with a tiny torch and distributes more drugs than Tony Montana. How you digest Gordon Kennedy’s attempt at portraying a ruthless mercenary leader, depends on how much you enjoy hearing a cherished uncle bark “fuck” on loop, and how little you remember of the comedy sketch show Absolutely.
Despite this, Wheatley dependable Michael Smiley commands the horror elements and conjures up a fiery stand-out performance that invites cynical suspicions of ad-libbing.
Every one of these perceived shortcomings can, of course, be swept under the carpet with the stiff bristles of the final reveal. Many critics and fans enjoyed Tank 432 at festivals but be advised, seldom has a movie relied so rigorously upon the credentials of its premise than this low budget footslog.
As Wheatley himself has illustrated, the horror genre is fertile earth for the Nicholas Roeg “never been to film school” approach to splintered storytelling. Sadly, in this case, the viewer’s patience stands a firm chance of bleeding out long before the confused and coercive conclusion can administer its spurious transfusion.
In the realms of low budget high concept horror, the temptation to deliver an authentic and original late twist is compelling. It is not ,however, a sly opportunity to harness a lazy conduit for the underserved validation of a flawed narrative.
★1/2 | Bradley Hadcroft
Horror, Action, Thriller| UK, 2015 | 88 min | 15 | Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment | UK DVD / Digital 22nd Aug 2016 | Dir. Nick Gillespie| Cast. Rupert Evans, Steve Garry, Deirdre Mullins | BUY