Film Review: Restless Natives
Director: Michael Hoffman (1985)
Now time has passed, I thought I’d take a look back at the 2011 England riots. Riots that both shook the country, and relegated my blackberry from pretentious business class tool, to the must have communicative device, no self-respecting, youth-centre-less teenage yob should be without. A self-respecting, youth-centreless yob, incidentally, who prefers free Primark clothes to ambition or items of actual value, which, somehow is probably explained by BBC Radio 1 being so unbelievably shit. That’s not to suggest BBC Radio 1 was, itself, responsible for the riots , but rather, to state unequivocally, that BBC Radio 1 has caused a generation of teenagers to grow up as fucking morons, especially Chris Moyles, who also kills babies……………… anyway, I can’t help thinking every rioter, violent policeman, outraged television viewer and Daily Mail reading member of the squeezed middle wouldn’t have benefited quite a bit from a viewing of Restless Natives, a quirky 1985 Scottish film from Michael Hoffman, director of one of the most tedious romantic comedies ever; One Fine Day.
Set in that brief period of Scottish history, when it was still acceptable to portray teenagers as functioning members of society, rather than the heroin addicted, racist football fans we know and love (1985), It tells the story of Will and Ronnie, remarkably unimpressive teenagers, whose days are spent hanging around a joke-shop and being ignored. Sick of novelty moustaches, the two opt to become highwaymen. Wearing a wolf and a clown mask respectively, they carry out a series of hold-ups on American tour buses, with the unintended consequences of one of them falling in love, an FBI chief becoming obsessed with catching them, Japan making a live action television show about their exploits, and the two of them becoming more popular than Jesus. The latter is probably due to their very un-eighties notion of actually giving their money to the masses (as opposed to toppling tables and money over and insisting everyone stay poor); history shows the public will justify even the most violent of armed robberies as long as it’s in the name of redistribution of wealth, see Robin Hood, Ronnie Biggs, Liberal Democrats, so maybe so many rioters wouldn’t have been given harsher sentences than rapists if only they’d given some of their baby gap clothes to the poor(er).
While I’m not saying the rioters wouldn’t have benefited from the anonymity provided by comedic masks, or that BBC News 24 riot coverage couldn’t benefit from a few Japanese car chases, I want to focus more on the nature of Will and Ronnie’s crimes. Yes they use a gun, two actually, a fake one and a plunger filled with sneezing power, coughing powder, curry powder, and a mystery powder, which, at a guess, is cocaine, but have a bit of, well honesty about them. They rob people, but they’re at least polite about it, they don’t have to use words like ‘pussy-o’, or ‘you feel me’ in order to get their point across, in fact they appear to feel guilty about telling people to hand over their belongings, like they regretted being such an inconvenience. I’d be a lot more inclined to hand over my wallet to the twat with a switchblade, if he at least had the decency to seem a bit remorseful about the whole thing.
Then there’s the police, my none-existent god are these officials from simpler times, racist, corrupt, sexist times, but simpler, nonetheless. At one point, they need to get some information from a young girl, I know what you’re thinking, but no, they didn’t kettle her, mace her in the face, handcuff her and then twist those cuffs till her wrists turned blue, shoot her and blame it on dodgy evidence from Algeria/her background as a Brazilian plumber or send a policeman undercover to engage in a ten year ‘friendship’. Instead, they buy her presents, talk to her like a person, and appear to be following some sort of strange moral code they called…………………………. Law, that thing before humans rights came in and messed everything up. No wonder the eighties were seen as the most violent, uncivilised decade to date.
Lessons in how we can all just get along aside, I think everyone involved in the riots would get something from watching Restless Natives, because, at the end of the day, it’s just a fun film. Certainly, there’s the odd bit of over acting, or gratuitous shot of Scottish countryside, and the inevitable, unsubtle, anti-Thatcher statement that was required of every film made in the eighties, but Restless Natives is still very, very good. Deep too, Will and Ronnie are endearing, especially when you consider the world they inhabit; Ronnie’s parents are dead, Will’s parents are unapproachable, no one listens to the boys, school kids sell guns and old ladies will beat a grown man to a pulp for selling sweets, a dark dark world.
Despite leading what must be considered difficult lives, the two have a lot of fun and that’s what makes this film so fun. The robberies the two commit aren’t a statement against disenfranchisement, or a result of social deprivation, or evidence of a greedy self-interest immoral by-product of a Free Market economy, they’re just about shits and giggles. Unlike our modern day rioters, who, judging by press coverage at least, all walk around with Marxist manifestos seeking to subvert and break the state down to an anarchistic hell hole, Will and Ronnie are just young lads looking for something entertaining to do. They clearly don’t think about the consequences of their actions and when confronted with them, actually show remorse, learning from their mistakes. Which goes to show how much has changed, imagine giving a yob in a riot a second chance, blaming their misbehaviour on a lack of stimulation, parental guidance or inexperience, why, the very fabric of society would crack faster than the window of a Croydon music shop! In fact, maybe we should just bring back the death penalty for rioters, immigrants, intellectual elites and Eastern European labourers.
Restless Natives is definitely from a different time, it’s clever, witty, quirky and slow, there’s not all that much too it, and despite lots of potentially deep issues or themes it makes an effort to remain charmingly simple. A fun film that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and you’re certainly better off watching it, than rioting for some Primark clothes, or most clothing chains for that matter, but that’s just my opinion, and I have a blackberry.
Written By Sam ‘Endeavours for better’ McKinstrie
Unnecessarily on twitter as McKinstHFP
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