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Review byMatthew Turner22/04/2009

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 85 mins

Emotionally engaging, impressively directed and sharply written debut feature that side-steps many of the usual urban drama cliches and features terrific central performances from rising stars Daniel Mays and Riz Ahmed.

What's it all about?
Shifty is the debut feature of British writer-director Eran Creevy, who shot the film on a micro-budget of just £100,000, thanks to the Film London Microwave scheme. Daniel Mays stars as Chris, a young man who returns to his old Essex stamping ground after an absence of four years and is shocked to discover that his one-time best friend Shifty (Riz Ahmed) has graduated to dealing hard drugs.

Over the course of 24 hours, Chris tries to reconnect with Shifty and tags along with him as he deals to a variety of drug users across the community. Meanwhile, an increasingly unhinged customer (Jay Simpson as Trevor) is desperate to track Shifty down for his next fix, while rival drug dealer Glen (Jason Flemyng) spots an opportunity that could put Shifty's life in danger.

The Good
Riz Ahmed is great as Shifty, under-playing the role to terrific effect and achieving the difficult task of portraying a character that we genuinely root for, despite his less than reputable profession. The always likeable Mays is equally good, subtly suggesting the hidden depths to Chris' character that the sharply written script gradually reveals.

There's also strong support from Jason Flemyng (who ensures that Glen resists the obvious evil bastard stereotype), EastEnders' Nitin Ganatra (as Shifty's oblivious older brother) and from ex-Hollyoaks star Dannielle Brent as Trevor's long-suffering wife, Jasmine.

The Great
Creevy gets impressive mileage from his micro-budget and makes the most of a series of authentic-looking locations. In addition, he orchestrates a number of suspenseful sequences while his script nimbly sidesteps the usual urban drama cliches – for example, the expected confrontation scenes don't play out the way you expect.

Worth seeing?
Shifty is a sharply directed, well written and superbly acted British drama that centres on a convincing and emotionally engaging friendship. Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 19/10/2019 18:51

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